Digital Citizenship in Elementary School

Digital citizenship is not about the tools, it’s about …?

Image source: Unsplash

Yesterday, a few colleagues and I spent some time discussing teaching digital citizenship to elementary school students. Much of the conversation centered around how to teach children digital citizenship skills in context, rather than theoretically. We can draw parallels with the idea of learning just in time, versus just in case. One colleague suggested that learning is very powerful when it’s exploratory, relevant, and social, and we should create environments with those components to teach digital citizenship.

We ended with the question: how can we teach digital citizenship in a way that’s exploratory, relevant, and social in elementary school.

Do you have any ideas or success stories to share? Please leave a comment related to the question, or complete the first sentence of this post.

Note that this post is written for my participation in #EdublogsClub challenge. The prompt was to “write a post that includes an image”.

5 Ideas for Digital Citizenship Week

Source: Common Sense Media

Source: Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is highlighting Digital Citizenship Week from October 16 – 22. It is a good time to revisit the ideas of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. Here are five examples of activities that you are can do with students during that week, or any week:

  • Give students cards for each (or a subset) of the 9 elements of digital citizenship, and have them come up with a poster, comic, song, or meme for each.
  • Focus on one of the 9 elements and have students create a pledge of how they will be responsible in that element.
  • Complete a lesson from Common Sense Media.
  • Have a technology free day, discuss the why with students, and focus on alternate activities that day. Encourage students to continue the challenge at home that day.
  • Invite families to have a device free meal, hour, walk, etc. Each child can create his/her own invitation to his/her family, on paper or using a tech tool from class.


When Grade 6 students clicked to their slide on sexting during a recent middle school assembly, ripples of nervous laughter could be heard throughout the cafeteria. It is an uncomfortable topic for teenagers, and some adults. It is currently getting some press in Massachusetts where police are currently investigating sexting amongst high school students.

Sexting is the term for taking a sexually explicit image of yourself and sending it to another person through digital means (e-mail, text, IM, etc.). A search for sexting teens in Google returns over one million results. Society is grappling with the affordances of technology that we would rather didn’t exist. In some states, sexting is considered a misdemeanor or a felony. Teens are warned that they could be labeled sex offenders and charged with child pornography. Despite these threats, some teens view sexting as a game. A first year university student in one of my Google Groups shared that some high school boys play a game to see who can get the most sexts in a school week; the game starts on Monday and ends on Friday. He explained it as an exercise in masculinity and that the winner of the week feels pride in his accomplishment.

If you’re a caretaker, a teacher, a person who engages with teenagers in any way, make sure that you understand what sexting is and the dangers that it poses to teens by visiting some of the links at the end of the article. When sexually explicit images of a girl become public, it is often the girl who suffers with being called derogatory terms, harassed, denigrated by peers and others. In some cases, the boy is also harassed. Consider what might make a teenage girl respond to requests for sexually explicit images from a boy. She could be exploring the concept of sexual power, seduced by flattery, coerced by peers, trying to interest a guy, searching for acceptance, curious about sex, etc.

Include discussions of sexting in conversations with teens about sex, health, online safety, peer pressure, respecting oneself, hormones, cell phone use, etc. Talk of criminal prosecution may prevent teens from reporting harassment related to sexting. Rather, highlight the fact that being coerced to sext is a form of sexual harassment and may cause social anxiety. Work on empowering teens and helping them build efficacy, resilience, self-respect and self confidence, rather than fear. Let’s all be upstanders, and help children do the same (an upstander acts to keep himself/herself and others safe).

Articles and Resources on Online Safety

  • Generation sex: explicit pics ‘the norm’ for teens –
  • Teens, social media and trolls: a toxic miss –
  • Best practices in bullying prevention –
  • Bullying tips for parents –
  • Cyberbulling resources –

Online Safety – Passwords

Combination Composition

Combination Composition by B. Tal, CC BY-NC 2.0

Raise your hand if you have more than one technology device that you use regularly. Keep your hand up if you use the same password for several accounts. Computer safety professionals will tell you that you should use a different password for every account and regularly change that password. It’s great advice but in my experience, many people find the wide variety of accounts and passwords unmanageable.

I still recommend that you follow the expert advice on password security but if you find it overwhelming, at least do the following 5 things:

  • Have a few strong passwords that you use online.
  • Make passwords at least 8 characters (10 characters is even better) from a combination of letters, numbers and symbols
  • Do not write your passwords down and if you store them electronically, use an obscure title for the file/email that you can recognize but others won’t. Don’t store in a visible location.
  • Use unique passwords for high security activities like online banking and online shopping.
  • Do not save your credit card information when you shop online unless the company has an excellent reputation and website security (https)

If you need help creating a password, visit – and Test how strong your password is by visiting

If you prefer video/audio, play the video below.

The Choice to Walk Away

By, CC BY 2.0

The web is a wonderful place full of discovery and adventure. It can satisfy your curiosity, fuel your imagination, and provide a canvas for your creativity. Avoiding the web is folly; ignoring it’s dark side is dangerous. You may be faced with the dark side of the web during the most innocuous of adventures.

As we use the web, we sometimes encounter images, videos, and text that are offensive, derogatory, annoying, degrading or of mature themes. It’s fairly easy to ignore the annoying; many of us are so used to the flashing ads and sponsored content that we don’t even see them. For users new to the web, especially young children, they may not be able to determine what is sponsored content or an advertisement. This is especially so since Google embeds sponsored content within search results. It is important to teach children to identify advertisements and sponsored content and to not click on them. How can we help children deal with more disturbing content?

What can a person do when she encounters disturbing content online:

  • click next
  • click back
  • close the tab
  • turn off the monitor and get help (if it’s a child)
  • tell an adult (if it’s a child)

If you see people ranting online, do not comment. If someone is defaming another person on a website, do not get involved. If you get an email making fun of someone else, don’t pass it on. If you get an ugly comment on your blog, put it in the trash (and keep it there in case you need to get help later). If someone asks you for personal information in a chat room, block the person or log off. If you get a bullying e-mail, save it but do not respond. If you’re in a situation where you’re not comfortable, get out even if the other person is a friend or a boyfriend/girlfriend. If you can’t get out by yourself, get help from a trusted friend or adult to get out. These are all methods of walking away. You have responsibilities to your communities and to yourself, to stay safe and to be healthy. It’s okay to walk away. Don’t be afraid to make that choice.