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CyberWise Guide to Digital Citizenship

About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 5:18
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 22 MB
  • Posted: 06/26/2011

This simple Video and Companion Guide (below) help parents and educators understand why digital citizenship is the essential first step to media literacy in the 21st century. If you’ve watched the "Cyberwise Guide to Media Literacy" at, then you already know that digital citizenship prepares students to use digital media safely, confidently and wisely. Fortunately there are loads of free, online resources to help you incorporate digital citizenship lessons into your classroom, after-school program or home. We've compiled this information for you and made it easy-to-access and understand.

Watch this Video and download its Companion Guide (in print!) today and you'll be CyberWise in no time!


We believe no grownup should be left behind. For more information please visit and Be CyberWise!

Music: Kevin MacLeod

Supplementary Files

  • Once you purchase this lesson you will have access to these files:
  • Cyberwise_Guide_to_Digital_Cit__EGuide.pdf Cyberwise_Guide_to_Digital_Cit__EGuide.pdf

About this Author

6 lessons

At CyberWise we help parents, educators, (and kids!) understand and use new media tools to invigorate education. Go to for a wealth of easy-to-use, credible content and materials that show you not only how, but why it pays to Be CyberWise!

For more information go to


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So what is Digital Citizenship?

Well, we believe it is the essential first step to becoming media literate in the 21st century.

Just like Driver’s Education prepares kids to get behind the wheel of a car. Digital citizenship prepares them to navigate the information super highway confidently and safely.

And this is important, because the media environment are kids are growing up in is new and different from anything any of us has ever experienced before. With the rules of road being written literally as we speak.

And while membership to the global digital community offers tremendous opportunity. It is also fraught with possible peril. Underscoring the necessity of digital literacy for students and their parents.

Many experts agree that the road to digital literacy starts here.

Dr. Jason Ohler believes that we all need to develop an ethical core that can guide us in this unfamiliar territory. Author Daniel Prensky writes that installing ethical behavior ought to be our number one concern. And even the U.S. Dept of Education states that students must be active, creative, knowledgeable and ethical participants of this networked society.

But here’s the problem… Few young people actually engage in ethical thinking when they’re online. In fact, according Dr. Henry Jenkins, what we have is an ethics challenge.

Fortunately, researchers at Harvard led by this man have been doing a lot of thinking about ethical thinking…

[Edutopia Video]

These five ethical issues create the framework to a digital citizenship curriculum offered online, for free, by Common Sense Media. To address the ethical issue of Participation, for example, they’ve designed a unit called Digital Life. Their free resources include short, entertaining videos like this one. As well as materials like these for students, with corresponding materials for adults, so that we can at least sound like we know what we are talking about.

In a unit on Privacy, for example, Common Sense offers activities like this one where students learn about the impact of their digital footprint by imagining the virtual impression they hope to make on the world in ten years. There are also several role-playing games like “Choose a Host”, which was adapted for a sixth grade class who thought they were hiring an employee to work on their class fundraiser.

This exercise helps students understand how online misrepresentations can have significant impacts.

One of the reasons teaching Digital Citizenship is so important is that it helps students think through ethical dilemmas that happen online, every day, in a safe, offline environment. For example in this game called “Chart it” students hear a variety of stories that actually happen online. Then they are asked to think about the level of harm and intentionality posed in each scenario, by physically taking a place on a chart like this that indicates how they view the perpetrator’s intentions in each story.

Students are also taught skills to deal with potential incidents of cyberbullying.

Digital Citizenship helps students to think about their online identities. Playing a game like “3 Facts, 1 Fiction”, for example, helps them understand how much easier it is to exaggerate, make up or change their identity online because they are not interacting face to face. This game helps young people understand that not everyone presents him or herself online the way they do in person.

Interviewing one another and designing offline “FakeBook” profiles allows students to learn and practice what information is safe and appropriate to share online, hopefully preventing irreversible and harmful mistakes commonly made when we first start using social media.

In addition to a wealth of free, online resources like these, you can also learn about Digital Citizenship the old fashioned way, by reading a book. This is one of the best to give you a broad understanding of Digital Citizenship. It also offers a range of activities that help young people really understand technology’s impact on our culture.

Like learning how to read and write, learning Digital Citizenship prepares students to fully participate in the digital world that’s here to stay. So rather than shielding students from an environment that offers so many opportunities for learning, let’s prepare them. Because the best Internet filter in the world is the one right between their ears.


Common Sense Media (n.d.). Common sense media education programs. Retrieved from

Edutopia (n.d.). Big thinkers: Howard Gardner on digital youth. Retrieved from

James, C. (2009). Young people, ethics, and the new digital media: A synthesis from the GoodPlay project. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Clinton, K., Weigel, M., & Robinson, A. J. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Retrieved from

Ohler, J.B. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Prensky, M. (2010). Teaching digital natives: Partnering for real learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

U.S. Department of Education. (2010). Transforming American education: learning powered by technology. Retrieved from

Music Credits:

“Gaslamp Funworks”

By: Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech,

Photo Credits:

Driver in Green Shirt. By jgrebedw (attribution license)

Boy texting. By dmjarvey (attribution license)

Girl texting. By GoodNCrazy (attribution license)

Girl holding drivers license. By: au_tiger01 (attribution license)

Blank Chalkboard. By "D Sharon Pruitt" (attribution license)

Node. By: Marc_Smith (attribution license)

Lock. Credit: Flickr: Husky

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