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Learning Library Blog Essential Elements of Digital Citizenship
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Essential Elements of Digital Citizenship

By Mike Ribble
July 26, 2021
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Kids today have always had technology in their lives, and many educators assume their students are competent tech users – more competent, in fact, than themselves.

In reality, though, students may be comfortable using technology, but they still might not understand how to use it appropriately or how to harness the power of technology to pursue their passions and contribute to their community. 

In my book, Digital Citizenship in Schools, I explain the three categories of digital citizenship  respect, educate, protect  and lay out a framework that educators of all subject areas and grade levels can use to teach the basics of digital citizenship.

As you embed digital citizenship lessons into your curriculum, you'll feel more comfortable empowering your students to be active, vocal digital citizens who use their voice to do good in the world and promote the causes they care about. 

Read on to get an overview of each of the nine elements: 


  • Digital access: Advocating for equal digital rights and access is where digital citizenship starts.

  • Digital etiquette: Rules and policies aren’t enough — we need to teach everyone about appropriate conduct online.

  • Digital law: It’s critical that users understand how to properly use and share each other's digital property. 


  • Digital communication: With so many communication options available, students need to learn how to choose the right tools according to their audience and message. 

  • Digital literacy: This involves more than being able to use tools. Digital literacy is about how to find, evaluate and cite digital materials. 

  • Digital commerce: As students make more purchases online, they must understand how to be effective consumers in a digital economy.


  • Digital rights and responsibilities: Students must understand their basic digital rights to privacy, and freedom of speech.

  • Digital safety and security: Digital citizens need to know how to safeguard their information by controlling privacy settings. 

  • Digital health and wellness: One important aspect of living in a digital world is knowing when to unplug. Students need to make informed decisions about how to prioritize their time and activities online and off. Balance is one of the five competencies of DigCitCommit.

Join the #DigcitCommit movement! Get the latest digcit resources for educators!

Mike Ribble is author of The Digital Citizenship Handbook for School Leaders and Digital Citizenship in Schools, 3rd Edition.

This is an updated version of a post that was originally published on June 25, 2014.