MET:Digital Citizenship

From UBC Wiki

This page originally authored by Leslie Greyell (February, 2011).
This page revised by Katherine Becker (June, 2011).
Stop motion animation added by Philip Ihewuokwu (February, 2016).

Also referred to as cyber citizenship, digital citizenship is a term that has been adopted and used by a wide variety of groups to discuss interrelated concepts. Based on one definition of the general concept of citizenship, “the quality of an individual's response to membership in a community,” [1] digital citizenship as a concept can be viewed as the quality of an individual's response to the digital communities of which they are members. Although this definition appears straightforward, a review of current work and investigations shows that there are a wide variety of answers to the question, "What is digital citizenship?"

Businessman ponders URL

What is digital citizenship?

Digital citizenship has been used to frame protection of children from online dangers such as cyber bullying, luring, and sexting. In addition, groups concerned with the protection of intellectual property have cited digital citizenship as a means to combat piracy. Organizations involved in the discussion of digital citizenship are often concerned with addressing one or more of these negative behaviours, as delineated in their definitions of digital citizenship.

Definitions aligned with child safety

  • Digital citizenship is about ensuring "safety to enable [children] to have the opportunity to form and to create relationships online that are healthy, that are productive, and ultimately will become the foundation for what we call digital citizenship." [2] Family Online Safety Institute (
  • "Digital citizenship is about creating safe, secure and ethical users of the internet. It's about children's right and responsibilities online. It's about their safety, their security, and their values, the judgements that they make and the decisions that they make online." [3] Childnet International (

Definitions aligned with intellectual property rights

  • "Digital citizenship refers to the rights and responsibilities involved with the use of technology. Learning to use technology appropriately and respecting creative rights is necessary in a world that is immersed in technology." [4] Microsoft (
  • Good digital citizenship centres around demonstrating "respect for intellectual property and responsible use of the internet." [5] Recording Industry of America (

Digital citizenship as an educational concept

Much of the discussions pertaining to digital citizenship are rooted in the belief that we as a society need to teach children the rules of digital citizenship at an early age. There has been much discussion about the role of various stakeholders in implementing educational initiatives toward this end. While some believe that parents must provide guidance in the development of positive online behaviours, others feel that parents may not possess a sound understanding of good digital citizenship. The stakeholders identified here have been active in bringing forward resources, standards and/or guidelines for the inclusion of digital literacy curriculum intended to prepare children to be responsible citizens in the digital world.

CORE Education (

CORE Education provides resources and professional development aimed at supporting teachers as they implement digital citizenship curriculum in the classroom. CORE identifies a distinction between global, digital, and cyber citizenship as distinct aspects of citizenship in the age of information technology:

  • Global – ICTs can help us understand and explore our place in the global marketplace, and what it means to be a global citizen
  • Digital – the ability to work with, adapt to, and be confident with digital technologies defines a digital citizen
  • Cyber – a cybercitizen is one who accepts and understands the rights and responsibilities of inhabiting ‘cyberspace’, including issues of online safety etc. [6]

This distinction between global, digital and cyber citizenship highlights the variety of issues present when attempting to address digital citizenship.

International Society for Technology in Education (

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) is an organization whose goal is to promote "excellence in learning and teaching through innovative and effective uses of technology." [7] ISTE produces a set of educational standards, called NETS, that address the use of technology in the K-12 classroom. ISTE's NETS have been adopted by a number of school boards around the world. From their website:

"Educational technology standards are the roadmap to teaching effectively and growing professionally in an increasingly digital world… Today’s educators must provide a learning environment that takes students beyond the walls of their classrooms and into a world of endless opportunities. Technology standards promote this classroom transformation by ensuring that digital-age students are empowered to learn, live, and work successfully today and tomorrow."[8]

NETS addresses digital citizenship, as well as five other components including creativity & innovation; communication & collaboration; research & information fluency; critical thinking, problem solving & decision making; and technology operations & concepts. [9]

Mike Ribble (

Mike Ribble is an American educator who, in collaboration with his mentor Dr. Gerald Bailey, has written prolifically on the topic of digital citizenship. He defines digital citizenship as an understanding of “human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. [Good digital citizens] advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology; exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity; demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning; [and] exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.” [10]

Ribble has collaborated with many of the organizations identified above, including FOSI [11] and ISTE, who also publishes a selection of his work. [12]. In discussions of Digital Citizenship, Ribble has asserted that

  • schools rely too heavily on Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs), which he identifies as convenient stopgap measures that address “do’s” and “don’ts” of technology use without further explanation about the “why” and “how” [13];
  • limiting and restricting students' access to online resources fails to teach them how to become good digital citizens;
  • approaches that depend largely on rigid rules can easily become outdated in times of rapid technological change; and
  • a more adaptable program for promoting digital citizenship is needed and must be integrated in the curriculum and taught in context, while students are using technology.

Ribble has put forward nine elements that he considers central to the concept of digital citizenship and the implementation of related classroom curriculum. These nine elements have been used by school boards as a guideline in preparing curriculum for implementation in the classroom, with the Lester B. Pearson School Board in Quebec announcing in January, 2011 their plan to implement a digital citizenship curriculum based on these nine elements.[14]

Stop Motion Animation: Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship

A visual representation of the nine elements of digital representation as identified by Mike Ribble.

Added Feb 8, 2015 by Susan Roth

Stop Motion: What does it mean to be a Digital Citizen and how can it play out in real life?

Digital Citizenship Theatre. A Animation about Digital Citizenship and how it can play out in real life situations. The focus being on Digital Etiquette, Foot Print, and Digital Safety & Ethics. What does it mean to be a good digital citizen and how can ensure we are being good digital citizens?

By Danny Tulk June 2015.

Digital Citizenship: Nine elements and what is privacy?
By Philip Ihewuokwu (Feb. 2016)

Ribble's digital citizenship curriculum guidelines

Digital access focuses on raising awareness about issues that may affect students' access to technology such as special learning needs, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. These issues are sometimes collectively referred to as the Digital Divide.

Digital commerce provides information about safe and responsible ways to buy and sell goods online, and includes discussion of identity theft, online auctions, deceptive vendors, and credit card debt.

Digital communication addresses appropriate uses for the growing number of communication technologies and provides guidance in understanding the distinct purposes and audiences of email, instant messaging, cell phones, text messaging, blogging, and social networking sites.

Digital literacy addresses learners’ technological capabilities and their ability to think critically about Web communication and content. This element bears similarity to other New Literacies such as Media Literacy, Information Literacy, and Visual Literacies.

Digital etiquette addresses standards of conduct that are appropriate in digital society. This includes the mindful use of technological devices in public as well as using appropriate behaviour and communication in online interactions.

Digital law involves many important issues that often attract media attention, such as child safety concerns and intellectual property rights.

Digital rights and responsibilities explains the privileges and expectations pertaining to participation in digital communities.

Digital health and wellness covers the physiological (eg eye strain, carpal tunnel) and psychological (eg technology addictions) impacts of regular and sustained engagement with technology.

Digital security introduces safety precautions that help protect the’ personal safety and network security of those participating in digital communities. This includes effective password management and awareness of the personal information that should not be made available online.

Implications for educators

As technology drives societal change across political, economic, and cultural realms, our increasingly global information society is struggling to establish norms, or basic universal codes of conduct [15]. Parents, educators, and students have grown concerned with issues of cyberbullying, plagiarism, illegal downloading, inaccurate and inappropriate online content, and personal and financial security. Appropriately developed and accessible digital citizenship curriculum can provide direction for children who are becoming members of digital communities.

To provide this direction, educators need to understand and acknowledge the influence technological innovations hold in our society. Technological determinism is a theoretical framework that can help educators make sense of the changes that are occurring. Technological determinism is a technology-led theory of social change that explains how a wide range of social and cultural phenomena are shaped by technology [16]. Duff supports the idea that technology is driving continuing societal change and believes that technology has led us into an information society where new norms and values must be established[17]. Digital citizenship education via developed classroom curriculum provides an opportunity to teach children about safe and responsible participation in digital communities.

In schools and in the academic literature, there is some debate over the best approach for teaching technological safety and responsibility. While some such as Batchelor view restrictive software and (AUPs) as sufficient in guiding the development of sound digital citizenship[18], many others such as Butler, [19]Endicott-Popovsky, [20]Greenhow, [21], Hollandsworth et al[22], and Ribble et al,[23][24][25][26][27]express serious concern with this approach. The latter group fully supports a comprehensive, student-centred, instructional approach, such as outlined by a thoughtfully developed, complete digital citizenship curriculum.

External Links

'Net Know How Resources and information on digital citizenship matters; Canadian-based.

New South Wales Digital Citizenship

Common Sense Media

Lester B. Pearson School Board Press Conference An archive of the Lester B. Pearson School Board webcast announcing the new digital citizenship curriculum (begins in French but later includes both English and French).

A lighthearted and upbeat look at the issues pertaining to digital citizenship.


  1. Citizenship. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster's online dictionary (11th ed.). Retrieved from
  2. Family Online Safety Institute. (2009, September 29). What is digital citizenship? [Video file]. Retrieved from
  3. Childnet. (Producer). What is digital citizenship? Available from
  4. Microsoft. (2008) Digital citizenship and creative content: A teacher's guide. Retrieved from
  5. Recording Industry Association of America. (2009). Music rules! Retrieved from
  6. CORE Education. 2011. Core education's ten trends 2011. Retrieved from
  7. ISTE. About us. Retrieved from on July 1, 2011.
  8. ISTE. Standards. Retrieved from July 1, 2011.
  9. ISTE. NETS for Students 2007. Retrieved from
  10. Ribble, M. 2008. Passport to digital citizenship: Journey toward appropriate technology use at school and at home. Retrieved from
  11. FOSI. (2010). Digital citizenship: safety, literacy and ethics for life in a digital world [Video file]. Retrieved from
  13. Ribble, M., & Bailey, G. (2007) Digital Citizenship in Schools. ISTE.. p.4
  14. Lester B. Pearson School Board (January 26, 2011). "All Lester B. Pearson School Board students to become responsible digital citizens". Press release. Retrieved 2011-06-01 from
  15. Duff, A. (2008). The normative crisis of the information society. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2(1) 1-7.
  16. Chandler, D. (2000). Technological or media determinism. Retrieved from
  17. Duff, A. (2008). The normative crisis of the information society. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 2(1) 1-7.
  18. Batchelar, R. (2004). How to achieve safe classroom computing. Education Today. 4(3). 26-27.
  19. Butler, K. (2010). Cybersafety in the classroom. District Administration. 46(6). 53-57.
  20. Endicott-Povosky, B. (2009). Seeking a balance: Online safety for our children.Teacher Librarian 37(2). 29-34.
  21. Greenhow, C. (2010). A new concept of citizenship for the digital age. Learning and Leading with Technology. 37(6). 24-25.
  22. Hollandsworth, R., Dowdy, L., & Donovan, J. Digital citizenship in K-12: It takes a village. TechTrends. 55(4). 37-47
  23. Ribble, M., & Bailey, G. (2004a). Point of view on technology drivers' licenses. District Administration. October. 85.
  24. Ribble, M., & Bailey, G. (2004b) Digital citizenship: Focus questions for implementation. Learning and Leading with Technology. 32(2). 12-15.
  25. Ribble, M., Bailey, B., & Ross, T. (2004). Digital citizenship: Addressing appropriate technology behaviour. Learning and Leading with Technology. 32(1). 6-9.
  26. Ribble, M., & Bailey, G. (2007) Digital Citizenship in Schools. ISTE.
  27. Ribble, M. (2009). Raising a Digital Child. HomePage Books.