Digital Citizenship:
            are you a digital citizen?

Introduction to Digital Rights and Responsibilities

        From the first day of the school year, students are instructed to follow the classroom and school rules. Students learn the expectations of responsible behavior in the classroom, the hallway, the bathroom, the cafeteria, the playground, the bus and so forth. Teachers help the students learn the rules through role play, assemblies, and class discussions. Positive behavior support rewards those students acting as responsible students throughout the school day. At home, parents establish rules and expectations for student behavior. Just as it is important to establish these rules and expectations for the school and the home, it is imperative that parents and educators establish similar rules and expectations for responsible behavior in the digital world. Students need guidelines and boundaries and are often successful when they know and understand the expectations. Educators and parents must model appropriate use of technology at home and at school. They must teach students about responsible use of technology. Through effective modeling and teaching, the students can successfully and safely participate in today's digital society.
        As stated within the NETs standard for digital citizenship, students are expected to "advocate and practice safe, legal and responsible use of information and technology" (International Society for Technology in Education, 2007). Digital rights and responsibilities address this component of the standard. Parents and educators need to work together, use available resources, and create opportunities for our students that promote safe, legal and responsible use of technology. As students participate in the digital world, they have to learn about internet safety, the best practices when using information online and the responsibilities that accompany technology use. With access to so many different websites, it is very easy to misuse technology. By teaching our students the best practices for technology use and the consequences for misuse, we can prepare them to make informed decisions as they collaborate, communicate and participate in the digital world.

What are Digital Rights and Responsibilities?

        Digital Rights and Responsibilities are the "privileges and freedom extended to all digital technology users, and the behavioral expectations that come with them" (Ribble & Bailey, 2007). In other words, your students have the privilege and freedom to engage in technology use during school as well as at home. However, there are expectations that accompany the privileges and freedom to use technology. Students must act responsibly as they participate in the digital world.


        One crucial step in supporting your student's digital rights and responsibilities is to become familiar with the Acceptable Use Policy from your child's school. An acceptable use policy is a policy written to inform parents, staff and students about their rights and responsibilities in using technology within the school setting. Within this policy, parents can read about the purpose of technology within the classroom, the rules and consequences accompanying technology use, and the behavioral expectations and etiquette when participating in the digital society. Schools often require a parent's signature as well as a child's signature prior to the child accessing any technology within the school building. Contact your child's teacher or school administration for more information regarding the current acceptable use policy. If your school does not have one, be an advocate for your children and initiate the process to developing one in your child's school. In the Resources section below, you will find a pamphlet describing one school's current acceptable use policy. 
        Using technology responsibly involves an understanding of many issues. Most importantly, parents and educators want students to be safe when using technology. Students must understand the rules for technology use within the school and at home so that they can have safe experiences online.  Students also must learn the consequences that accompany making unsafe and inappropriate choices in digital world. For example, at school loss of privileges is a potential consequence of making illegal and inappropriate choices online. 
        Additionally, students must learn how to act ethically and legally. Students should be taught how to use material they find online appropriately. Many students, especially at the young ages, do not know about copyright laws and/or the meaning of plagiarism. As the educators and parents, it is essential that we model for them and instruct them on how to use "their own words" and not the authors' words. While at a young age, it may not be developmentally appropriate to teach students how to cite sources, it is necessary to explain that they have to remember to use their words and/or give credit to the author. While most students know what cheating is and looks like within the classroom, many have failed to realize that using some forms of technology during testing situations can be considered cheating. This issue is more frequent at the middle and high school levels, where many students have their cell phones with them at school. Texting during a test or an independent classroom assignment could be understood as cheating. It is important that students realize the impact that technology may have and only use it at the appropriate times. 
        Cyber bullying and threatening behavior are two other major issues related to this topic of digital rights and responsibilities. Students need to remember that just as bullying is not tolerated in school, bullying online is not tolerated either. Threatening others through technology is also another inappropriate use of technology. Parents and educators must have discussions with students about these topics. Many do not realize the hurt and the negative effects of cyber bullying and online threatening and/or the consequences that accompany these inappropriate choices. 
        In order to become digital citizens, our students must understand their rights and responsibilities as participants in the digital world. By following their school's AUP, making appropriate choices when using technology, participating in technology lessons that teach safe and appropriate practices of technology use and reporting cyber bullying and threatening behavior, students will be able to engage in safe, ethical and meaningful experiences with today's technology.


Use the following resources for further information on the many issues related to digital rights and responsibilities including cyber bullying and internet safety.

Let's Fight It Together - Parents, watch this video to gain a better understanding of cyber bullying and its negative impact on students. There are a few inappropriate words so please be mindful of others when viewing the video.

Cyberbullying- Watch BrainPOP's video with your children for an overview of cyber bullying.

Cyberbullying Quiz - Use this as a resource for information about cyber bullying. Have your children take the quiz or take it with them and learn together about this important issue.

Cyberbullying - Laugh at it and you're part of it - This website discusses the many different types of cyber bullying.

Are You a Responsible Digital Citizen? - Parents can play this game with their students or students can play independently to learn
what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. Please note: This game originated in Australia so the laws are a little different than the laws in the United States.

Woogi World - This resource is an online virtual world that allows students to play as they learn how to become 21st century digital citizens.

Connect Safely - This web resource provides parents and educators with a variety of safety tips for teenage students to use as they participate online.

Disney's Internet Safety - Use this website as a guide for parents to teach their children about internet safety.

Additional Information

        Many schools and/or school boards have adopted Acceptable Use Policies (AUP's) as a way to inform parents, students and educators about the rules, consequences, and expectations for technology use within the school setting. The following resource is a pamphlet created to enlighten parents about the critical components of the AUP. Use this pamphlet to further your understanding of the expectations for technology use within the classroom. In addition, feel free to use this pamphlet as a guide in helping develop an AUP at your child's school or implement these guidelines at home as your children use technology. The other resources listed below can be used to teach students about internet safety and digital rights.
Acceptable Use Policy Pamphlet for Parents - Feel free to use this pamphlet to better understand an AUP.
File Size: 70 kb
File Type: docx
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Disney's Online Safey Tip for Kids - Use these tips to promote internet safety.
File Size: 215 kb
File Type: pdf
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Children's Bill of Rights - Students use this list to understand their digital rights.
File Size: 173 kb
File Type: pdf
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