From UBC Wiki

This page is authored by James Chen (January, 2012)

Cyberethics is a set of "moral choices individuals make when using Internet-capable technologies and digital media."[1] The acceptable behavior in the real world is also acceptable in cyberspace.[2] Examples of moral conduct in both physical and virtual realms include showing respect for others, being honest, not stealing from others, etc.

Why teach Cyberethics?

As technological advancements are made each day, the question "What are people doing with this technology?" has raised ethical concerns in the field of Educational Technology. What is Ethics? What does it mean to act in an ethical way in cyberspace? Why should people act ethically in a virtual environment? These are some of the questions that educators should know the answers to so that students who are required to use technology everyday can learn how to make the right decisions in today's digital society.


The traditional understanding of "Ethics" is defined as "a system of moral principles; the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions or a particular group, culture, etc; and moral principles, as of an individual."[3] A decision is considered moral when it conforms to the rules of right conduct.[4] In other words, if an action violates the rights of others, the act itself may be considered immoral or unethical.

Even though most teachers may have a good understanding of ethical conduct in the physical world, without an understanding of moral responsibility to guide students' interactions in the virtual realm, the chances of misconduct by the students will be dramatically increased. Educators today thus have a need to demonstrate the appropriate usage of technology following the right rules of conduct in both physical and virtual realms so that future generations can learn how to use technology in an ethical, responsible manner.

Media Literacy

Media Awareness Network logo

In Canada, cyberethics is integrated into the English Language Arts curriculum under the title "Media Literacy."[5] Media literacy is the set of abilities that allow people to "analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a wide variety of media modes, genres, and forms."[6] The Media Awareness Network (2010) provides an overview of Media Education in Canada:[5]

Media-related outcomes are included throughout the Western and Northern Canadian Protocol (WNCP) English Language Arts framework, most notably in General Outcome 2: "Students will listen, speak, read, write, view, and represent to comprehend and respond personally and critically to oral, print, and other media texts." According to this outcome:
  • Constructing meaning of oral, print and other media texts is fundamental to living in a democracy. In a technological society, students are required to comprehend and sort ideas and information from an increasing volume and variety of sources.
  • By exploring oral, print and other media texts, students experience a variety of situations, people and cultures, and learn about themselves.
  • Students respond to texts by reflecting, analyzing, synthesizing, evaluating and creating.
In Atlantic Canada, Media Literacy, Critical Literacy and Visual Literacy are essential components of English Language Arts.
  • Visual Literacy is the ability to understand and interpret the representation and symbolism of a static or moving visual image—how the meanings of the images are organized and constructed to make meaning—and to understand their impact on viewers.
  • Media Literacy is the ability to understand how mass media, such as TV, film, radio and magazines, work, produce meanings, and are organized and used wisely.
  • Critical Literacy is the ability to understand how all speakers, writers, and producers of visual texts are situated in particular contexts with significant personal, social and cultural aspects.


File:Symantec logo.jpg
Symantec Corporation logo

The Symantec Corporation lists the following guidelines to cyber ethics and safety for adolescents and their parents:[2]

  • Do use the Internet to help you do your schoolwork.
  • Don't copy information from the Internet and call it your own.
Music, video, games and copyrights
  • Do use the Internet to learn about music, video and games.
  • Don't use the Internet to download or share copyrighted material.
Email and instant messaging
  • Do use the Internet to communicate with friends and family.
  • Don't use the Internet to communicate with strangers.
  • Don't pretend to be someone else.
  • Don't be rude or use bad language.
  • Don't give anyone personal information or passwords.
For Parents
  • Don't leave your children unsupervised.
  • Do encourage your children to use the Internet.
U.S. Department of Justice Seal

The U.S. Department of Justice Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section provides parents and educators the following guidelines to cyberethics - Model Acceptable Use Policy for Information Technology Resources in the Schools:[7]

Students must
1. Respect and protect the privacy of others.
  • Use only assigned accounts.
  • Not view, use, or copy passwords, data, or networks to which they are not authorized.
  • Not distribute private information about others or themselves.
2. Respect and protect the integrity, availability, and security of all electronic resources.
  • Observe all network security practices, as posted.
  • Report security risks or violations to a teacher or network administrator.
  • Not destroy or damage data, networks, or other resources that do not belong to them, without clear permission of the owner.
  • Conserve, protect, and share these resources with other students and Internet users.
3. Respect and protect the intellectual property of others.
  • Not infringe copyrights (no making illegal copies of music, games, or movies!).
  • Not plagiarize.
4. Respect and practice the principles of community.
  • Communicate only in ways that are kind and respectful.
  • Report threatening or discomforting materials to a teacher.
  • Not intentionally access, transmit, copy, or create material that violates the school's code of conduct (such as messages that are pornographic, threatening, rude, discriminatory, or meant to harass).
  • Not intentionally access, transmit, copy, or create material that is illegal (such as obscenity, stolen materials, or illegal copies of copyrighted works).
  • Not use the resources to further other acts that are criminal or violate the school's code of conduct.
  • Not send spam, chain letters, or other mass unsolicited mailings.
  • Not buy, sell, advertise, or otherwise conduct business, unless approved as a school project.
Students may, if in accord with the policy above
1. Design and post web pages and other material from school resources.
2. Use direct communications such as IRC, online chat, or instant messaging with a teacher's permission.
3. Install or download software, if also in conformity with laws and licenses, and under the supervision of a teacher.
4. Use the resources for any educational purpose.

Related Issues

Cyberethics is made up of various aspects of moral judgment in cyberspace. The non-exhaustive areas of concern related to cyberethics are copyright infringement, plagiarism, and netiquette.

Copyright Infringement

Copyright is defined as "the exclusive right to make copies, license, and otherwise exploit a literary, musical, or artistic work, whether printed, audio, video, etc."[8] The unauthorized copying of intellectual property owned by the copyright holder is considered a violation of such rights.[9] Such violations are also considered as "piracy" or "theft."[9] Replicating someone else's work for the gains of oneself without permission, for example, would be considered an act that violates copyright laws. In other words, by making a copy of a purchased music CD, for example, and giving the copy to someone else would be considered an infringement of copyright.



The UBC Learning Commons: Chapman Learning Commons on Academic Integrity (2011) indicates that:[10]

Plagiarism is using another person's ideas without giving credit and is considered intellectual theft. If you submit or present the oral or written work of someone else you are guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism may be:
Accidental or Unintentional
You may not even know that you're plagiarizing. Make sure you understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.
This time you're well aware of what you're doing. Purposefully using someone else's ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism. This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as your own.
It's your own work so you should be able to do what you want with it, right? Wrong. Handing in the same term paper (or substantially the same term paper) for two courses without getting permission from your instructor is plagiarism.



Netiquette refers to "the rules of etiquette that apply when communicating over computer networks, especially the Internet."[11] In particular, netiquette is "a set of social conventions that facilitate interaction over networks, ranging from Usenet and mailing lists to blogs and forums."[12] The following set of rules concerning online etiquette is from the book Netiquette written by Virginia Shea (1997):[13]

  • Rule 1: Remember the human - Never forget that the person reading your mail or posting is, indeed, a person, with feelings that can be hurt.
  • Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life
  • Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace
  • Rule 4: Respect other people's time and bandwidth
  • Rule 5: Make yourself look good online
  • Rule 6: Share expert knowledge
  • Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control
  • Rule 8: Respect other people's privacy
  • Rule 9: Don't abuse your power
  • Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people's mistakes

Resources for Teachers

Here are some links to websites on topics related to the education of cyberethics:

1. Family Resources Article: A collection of articles on cyber safety and ethics for the family from Norton by Symantec

2. Media Awareness Network: This site contains information and lesson plans on media education in Canada, including media literacy and cyber ethics and safety.

3. U.S. Department of Justice - Cyberethics: A collection of websites on cyberethics recommended by the U.S. government.

4. Woogi World: A website for K-6 students to learn the basics of cyberethics, cybersafety, cybersecurity and cyberhealth.

See Also

Copyright and Plagiarism

Creative Commons

Digital Citizenship

Digital Literacy

Media Literacy

Media Literacy and Education

Stop Motion Artifact The following animation created using powtoon gives a description of what cyberethics is and why it is important to us as educators and society as a whole.



  1. Pusey, P. & Sadera, W. A. (2011). Cyberethics, cybersafety, and cybersecurity: Preservice teacher knowledge, preparedness, and the need for teacher education to make a difference. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28(2), 82-88.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Symantec Corporation. (2007, February 19). Cyber ethics. Retrieved from
  3. Ethics. (2012). In Retrieved from
  4. Moral. (2012). In Retrieved from
  5. 5.0 5.1 Media Awareness Network. (2010). Media education in Canada: An overview. Retrieved from
  6. Media literacy. (2012). Retrieved March 1, 2012 from Wikipedia:
  7. U.S. Department of Justice Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. (n.d.). Model acceptable use policy for information technology resources in the schools. Retrieved from
  8. Copyright. (2012). In Retrieved from
  9. 9.0 9.1 Copyright infringement. (2012). Retrieved March 1, 2012 from Wikipedia:
  10. Academic integrity. (2011). Retrieved March 1, 2012 from UBC Wiki:
  11. Netiquette. (2012). In Retrieved from
  12. Netiquette. (2012). Retrieved March 2, 2012 from Wikipedia:
  13. Shea, V. (1997). Netiquette. Retrieved from