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The 5 Competencies of Digital Citizenship

By Jerry Fingal
October 12, 2021
5 competencies Dig Cit

The digital world is evolving rapidly and so must the way we educate students about navigating it. For over a decade now, digital citizenship has been mainly about the don'ts: Don't share your passwords, don't steal the intellectual property of others, don't post or share inappropriate content on social media.

But it's time to rethink that approach, says ISTE CEO Richard Culatta. 

"Far too often, digital citizenship is taught in a negative way — here’s the list of all the stuff you should not do online. And while I appreciate the intent behind anti-cyberbullying campaigns, we don’t teach other things as “anti-” in schools. I mean, we don’t have anti-illiteracy campaigns we teach kids to love to read. Digital Citizenship shouldn’t be a list of don’ts, but a list of do's."

The other way we need to evolve our thinking, Culatta says, is by recognizing that the skills required to thrive as a digital citizen go beyond just online safety. They include recognizing fact from fiction online, using technology to engage in civic action and being respectful of people with differing viewpoints from our own. 

"These are skills that students aren’t learning from watching the adults around them either.," Culatta says. "And so we must challenge ourselves to do better."

That's why ISTE has partnered with some like-minded organizations to redefine digital citizenship. This coalition has launched an international DigCitCommit campaign to get students, educators and their communities familiar with the five competencies of digital citizenship.

Watch the video below and then commit to the five competencies of digital citizenship.

The five competencies of digital citizenship


I am open to hearing and respectfully recognizing multiple viewpoints, and I engage with others online with respect and empathy.


I evaluate the accuracy, perspective, and validity of digital media and social posts.


I use technology and digital channels for civic engagement, to solve problems and be a force for good in both physical and virtual communities.


I make informed decisions about how to prioritize my time and activities online and off.


I am aware of my online actions, and know how to be safe and create safe spaces for others online.

Digital Literacy skills