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Digital citizenship is more important than ever

By Mike Ribble
January 28, 2020
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A lot has changed since Digital Citizenship in Schools was first published. But one thing has remained constant: the importance of teaching students how to respect and protect themselves and others online.

In the third edition of the book, I discuss how educators around the United States are teaching digital citizenship in their schools and districts. In particular, I share three powerful stories from leaders who have addressed these challenges with students.

In the first edition, coauthor Gerald Bailey and I outlined nine key elements that help define how to best use technology in every school, home and community. In the latest edition, I’ve categorized those nine elements into three groups I call REP: respect, educate and protect. Here’s how they break down.


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R is for respect yourself and others 

Etiquette. Students need to understand how their technology use affects others. Remind them that there is a person on the other end of their text, tweet, comment or post.

Access. Not everyone has the same opportunities with technology, whether the issue is  physical, socio-economic or location. Those who have more access to technology need to help those who don’t.

Law. The ease of using online tools has allowed some people to steal, harass and cause problems for others online. Students need to know they can’t take content without permission, or at least give credit to those who created it.

E is for educating yourself and others

Literacy. Learning happens everywhere. Regardless of whether we get our information from friends, family or online, we need to be aware that it might not be correct. Students need to understand how to evaluate the accuracy, perspective and validity of digital media and social posts

Communication. Knowing when and where to use technology is important. Using email, text or social media may not be the best method for interacting with someone. Students need to think about the message first, then the method, and decide if the manner and audience is appropriate.

Commerce. Technology allows us to buy and sell across the globe. Students should be careful about sharing personal and credit card information. Online commerce comes with risks.  

P is for protecting yourself and others

Rights and responsibilities. Build trust so that if something happens online, students are willing to share their problems or concerns about what has happened. Students should know who they are friends with on social networking sites so that they can remain safe online.

Security. It is everyone’s responsibility to guard their tools and data by having software and applications that protect them from online intruders. When we are all connected, everyone is responsible for security.

Health and wellness. There needs to be a balance between the online world and the real world. Students should establish limits with technology and spend quality face-to-face time with friends and family.

I see these areas as important touchstones for everyone who works, plays and interacts in the online space. I hope everyone who uses and educates others about technology keeps them in mind.

My students can be stellar digital citizens. Join the #digcitcommit conversation.

Mike Ribble has been a classroom teacher, a secondary school administrator, a network manager and a university instructor. His nine elements of digital citizenship have informed audiences around the world and inspired dialogue around responsible technology use. Ribble has presented at national and international conferences and started the ISTE Digital Citizenship Network

This is an updated version of a post that originally published on Oct. 23, 2016.