Intro to the Digital Citizen

The views expressed on the CTE Educator website, blogs and posts are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Greater Johnstown School District, the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Directors, or Administration.

An Introduction to Digital Citizenship:

My definition of Digital Citizenship: We are all digital citizens in today’s world, either as active or passive participants, relying upon a constantly changing global marketplace that needs grounded in acceptable moral and ethical behaviors by all participants. By modeling moral, ethical and responsible behavior, we lead others to be digital creators and learners, moving past a digital consumer mindset.

The 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship:

  1. Safe, Savvy and Social: These principles overlap with the categories and elements. Each of the principles is a foundational block to structure the categories and elements to build upon. It begins with safety being the first principle taught and the related categories and elements. We can then educate the learner in the ‘how’ of being a digital citizen, yielding a ‘savvy’ digital creator. Finally, we have social, where the learner is able to post, collaborate, research, and utilize the digital world to take ownership of their learning.
  2. Respect Your Self/Respect Others: The first category is one where we begin as early as possible with young learners.
    1. Etiquette: The manners, rules, procedures, and overall norms of behavior that we are expected to adhere to when participating in the digital world, especially with other human beings. It is not only manners; it includes an acceptance of the differences in cultures, as the digital citizen is not just a citizen of a town, city, state, or nation. They are citizens of the digital world.
    1. Access: One of the true shortcomings of the digital age. During the Covid shutdown last year, it became very apparent that there was an extreme digital divide. We had families where all of the children in a household were expected to share 1 device. Students who did not have internet access at home and had to travel to hot spots to complete work. We finally attained a 1 to 1 device ratio, yet bandwidth, and access are continuing problems that our students struggle to overcome.
    1. Law: What is legal, moral and ethical? Law and etiquette go hand in hand.
  3. Educate Your Self/Connect with Others: This is the most prevalent application of savvy. The learner takes control and ownership of their learning as they grow into digital citizens.
  4. Communication: It seems redundant to have communication as an element. The digital world is designed for communication. This element refers to the need to remind students that they are communicating in a digital world, with their comments having the potential to be posted to the community at large. All too often, we see students who post something thinking it is private. When it is shared, it is upsetting to everyone involved. This links directly to etiquette and the need to teach our learners that they are digital citizens and are responsible for our communications.
  5. Literacy: The ability to discern information, understanding that anyone can post anything. It reminds me of the following meme:
  • Commerce: With the onset of Covid, we had the mass flipping of the workplace. Working remotely is only one aspect of e-commerce. It also includes digital retail, careers that are information and digital based, and the ability for home entrepreneurs to participate through sites like Etsy. The element of commerce is linked to the elements of safety and security. We need to be able to trust that our online transactions are safe and secure.
  • Protect Your Self/Protect Others: The digital world is one that requires constant vigilance when exploring and interacting with others. We have no way to verify who is actually at the other end of the connection. This is changing with the prevalence of zoom, Google meet, and other live meeting apps. 
    • Rights and Responsibility: While we have the right to Free Speech, we do not have the right to harass, abuse, and bully others. This element, along with etiquette, communication, safety, and health and welfare all work in tandem to reinforce our personal responsibility for our participation as digital citizens.
    • Safety (Security): As digital citizens, we are responsible for the security of our devices, information, and the keys to the digital world, (passwords). We need to emphasize that this is so much more than sharing your locker combination to students. Lax safety and security can have long lasting effects on your ability to participate in the digital world through poor credit, malicious posts, false information, and malware attacks.
    • Health and Welfare: In addition to ergonomics, we have a responsibility to see that we participate in the digital world in ways that protect us from harm. This responsibility is to others, helping or asking for help when needed and ourselves.

I believe that the most important element is etiquette. Etiquette seems to involve the majority of the 9 elements. By teaching proper etiquette, we are teaching the other elements as well. If we follow proper etiquette, we are going to be active, caring, creators in the digital world, conscience of our responsibilities as citizens.  


  • Digital Citizenship. (2021, August 24). Common Sense Education.
  • Ribble, M. (2015). Digital Citizenship in Schools: Nine Elements All Students Should Know (Third ed.). International Society for Technology in Education.
  • Román, I. (2021, September 22). The World Trade Center, by the Numbers. HISTORY.
  • Sinek, S. (2017, November 15). TEENAGERS should see this!!! One of the BEST MOTIVATIONAL video by Simon Sinek [Video]. YouTube.
  • Toner, J. M. (2019). Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation: A Paper Found Among the Early Writings of George Washington (Classic Reprint). Forgotten Books.
  • U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education: 2017 National Education Technology Plan Update, Washington, D.C., 2017.