ITWORX EducationITWORX Education

Why is digital citizenship so important?


Schools have always played an important role in encouraging children to become good future citizens. But to timeless concepts such as respect and kindness, fresh behaviors are now being added. These relate to the digital world we now live in, and the principle of using its technologies in ways that are responsible, appropriate and intelligent.This idea of ‘digital citizenship’ has become a hot topic, in education and elsewhere. So what part should our schools play in creating effective digital citizens, and what can teachers do?

For this, we have one key teaching tip: don’t teach.

That may sound perverse, but it’s rooted in one of the fundamentals of citizenship: it’s about qualities and behaviors that aren’t handed out as rules, but instead nurtured as self-beliefs within students.

Besides, the era of digital citizenship belongs to their generation. They not only understand its technologies as well as or even better than their elders, they also deserve the right to shape its parameters themselves.

So rather than giving you ‘teaching content’, we’re suggesting three topics around which you can empower your students to build their own concept of digital citizenship. With these, we suggest using:

  • Classroom techniques that enable students to lead and own the debate and process
  • Learning and dissemination methods that integrate technology themselves, so each issue is explored in context


Topic One: What are the basic skills needed for a digital world?

Students should list these. They can start with straightforward computer abilities, but also cover things such as:

  • Distinguishing between credible and deceptive information
  • How to determine if information is private and secure
  • How to move from consuming information to creating it

They could also debate what the absence of these skills would mean, and the implications of disenfranchisement.

Topic Two: What makes someone a good digital citizen?

You need to help students make the leap: from seeing a digital citizen not just as someone who knows how to use technology, but as someone who knows how to use it in the right ways.

This opens up issues of ethics, safety and civility. Netiquette, as it’s often called. For example:

  • Good digital citizens don’t cyberbully or offend
  • They’re careful with sharing personal information
  • They don’t post material that might come back to haunt them
  • They don’t steal or plagiarize others’ content

What are the repercussions of not behaving like this – for an individual, and for society?

Topic Three: Where can digital citizenship take you?

While safety and civility are important, students shouldn’t see that as the core of digital citizenship. They should also feel excited about its potential.

Firstly, it can be a way for them to become producers and managers of information and perspectives, using technology to enhance their critical thinking, communication, flexibility and teamwork skills.

Secondly, it opens up the entire world. Citizenship used to essentially encompass your local community: the neighborhood, city and country in which you lived. But the digital world has no such physical borders, and its citizens need to ‘live’ with everyone everywhere.

How does a citizen of the future balance both their physical and digital worlds?