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6 Tips for Teaching Digital Citizenship to K-12 Students

The world of teaching has gone digital. This means students are not only learning traditional reading, writing, math, and language but (hopefully) they’re also learning how to become digital citizens.

Our world is smaller than it’s ever been because of technology and teaching students how to navigate the online world has become an important part of the K-12 curriculum. If you’re looking for things that are necessary for your students to learn, we have some tips to help teach digital citizenship skills.

Teach Online Safety

While the internet is a great source of endless information, it can be a dangerous place too for anyone, regardless of age. Whether it’s online or in the real world, kids often won’t see the danger in something unless they’re taught about it. So teach kids how websites can harvest information from their computers and the importance of stranger danger in a digital world. Kids are curious by nature, which is great, but that curiosity can sometimes get them into compromising situations online.

An especially important aspect of internet safety education is privacy. Teach kids that regardless of what they’ve been told about who they’re talking to online, they never truly know who is on the other end of an online conversation. It’s important they know to keep private information private for their own safety.

Encourage Computer Literacy

We have the ability to create just about anything using computers. From producing music to creating digital imagery to coding complex algorithms, the possibilities are endless. Teaching kids how to use computers is a critical part of their future and it’s important to encourage them to use technology, especially for kids who may not have dedicated access to a computer at home. By providing them with opportunities to learn how to create with computers, they’ll be more literate when it comes time to use them in the future, and learning new software will come much easier.

Teach Kindness and Discourage Bullying

Cyberbullying is a real problem and it continues to be prevalent among those who find it easy to hide behind a keyboard. Teaching kids the importance of being kind online can help quell cyberbullying now and into the future. Let them know that there is, indeed, another real person on the other end of their comment or message, and the things they say will have an actual effect on the way that person feels. Encourage them to consider how their posts might make them feel if they were on the receiving end.

Build Healthy Usage Habits

Many parents have valid reasons for trying to put strict limits on the amount of time their children spend on computers, smartphones, and tablets. The glow of the screen, as well as the instant gratification of playing a game or building something with a program, can be addictive. However, you can help your kids develop a healthy relationship with digital devices by creating a designated time for them to use their devices. Rather than allowing time as a reward or taking it away as a punishment, remind kids that they have designated time each day or each week and it won’t be as much of a problem for them to walk away.

Teach about a Digital Footprint

Just as in the offline world, we leave a digital footprint everywhere we go online. Whether it’s in the form of comments, social media posts, or even website cookies, it’s easy to see where we’ve been and our online habits. Children need to understand that their digital footprint is something that will be left behind for many years and anyone can trace it back to them at some point down the road.

Because of this, they need to be mindful of their activity online. If they’re not sure how their digital footprint can affect them years down the road, they need not look any further than professional athletes who have run into trouble because of controversial comments that they’ve tweeted while in high school that come back to haunt them five or even 10 years after the fact.

Teach about Creative Rights

It’s never been easier to obtain media to use for personal or school projects. This means that a student might sample a piece of music for a project in school that they don’t have the right to. While this might not be a big deal for the project itself as it’s been created in a vacuum and won’t see the light of day outside of school, they might think this practice is OK to carry into their personal projects.

For instance, a student might take to music mixing and want to create their own mixes of popular songs and sell them on iTunes. Teach them the importance of creative rights so they understand where they can and cannot obtain media for their projects so they don’t run into trouble in the future.

Want a few digital citizenship lessons to get you started? Check out our free Digital Citizenship Course for Families or for more articles like this one, timely advice, and tips for digital parents, sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter.

About the Author

Sam Cortez is an accomplished technology editor and journalist. She’s written for major news magazines such as Business Insider, 20/20, and the New York Post. She now is currently employed as the managing editor and content director for, a leading influencer marketing platform. In her off time, she travels frequently across the country, helping rehabilitate small communities through permaculture techniques to increase food independence.

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