Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety
The term "Digital Citizenship" relates to the concept that people that reside in a digital world share in rights and responsibilities as members of the community. In addition, a good citizen works to benefit the larger community. This idea helps parents and teachers understand what students should know to use technology appropriately. Engaging students in activities that teach Digital Citizenship prepares students to participate and benefit from a society full of technology. When children and adults abuse and misuse technology it's because they do not know what is considered appropriate technology usage. We must provide direct instruction and support as our children learn the principles of Digital Citizenship.

Principles of Digital Citizenship for Students

1. Digital Etiquette - standards of conduct and good manners
2. Digital Communication - information exchanged, collaboration using the Internet
3. Digital Literacy - the use of technology
in teaching and learning, decipher and utilize information
4. Digital Law - responsibility for actions and accountability for using other's work
5. Digital Rights & Responsibilities - everyone in a digital world
is extended freedom and with that freedom must take responsibility for actions
6. Digital Security (self-protection) - electronic precautions to guarantee safety.

Issues with Technology Use Involving Students


Cyberbullying is the use of any electronic medium to harass, threaten, intimidate or harm someone. It includes the use of e-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, surveys in a blog or website, or cell phones. Cyberbullying is not only done by children, but adults. This is why it is important to take this issue very seriously. Cyberbullying is worse than face to face bullying because the bully can remain anonymous and the victims seemingly can not escape from the harassment. Here are some scenarios that parents need to be aware of to keep their children safe:
  • Emails can be forwarded to anyone. Forwarding emails that were meant to be kept private could cause a great deal of embarrassment.
  • Never sign into your email, IM, online profile account at someone else's house. This gives someone the opportunity to sign in and take on your identity to spread rumors, say mean things to others, or post information that could be used to harass.
  • Never put a picture online or say anything that you "wouldn't want Grandma to see". Even if you change your mind later and remove a picture from a website, it's too late. Someone can download it and continue to distribute it for others to see on other sites or through IM and email.

Some important Information and tips to Cyberbullying:

  • Research shows that most parents about their teens' online behavior
  • Teens whose parents don't monitor them offline (or online) are more likely to cyberbully
  • Stress to children that they should not say anything online that they wouldn't say to the person's face. It helps model that behavior.
  • Ask you kids where they go on line and who they are with, just as you would when your child leaves the house.
  • Young people who use instant messenger (more girls than boys) are much more likely to be cyberbullied or to cyberbully. Make sure children know appropriate online etiquette and how to end a conversation they don't like.
  • Studies show that children are becoming more savvy when it comes to ignoring, blocking, or telling adults about unwanted messages.
  • Assure your children that you are available to help them resolve issues without taking away their internet privileges.
  • Understand that to young people it is a "place" that is an important part of their self-identity, relationship formation, and social development.

Cyberbullying Resources

Parent's Guide to Cyberbullying - from a free educational resources developed by Carnegie Mellon University - This organization has pulled together a vast amount of information with articles about the issue, and guides for parents.
Stop cyberbullying - Parry Aftab is a well known attorney who got involved in the issue of cyberbullying and online safety. She has been instrumental in making social networking sites take precautions and set up stricter profile settings to protect young people.
Internet Super Heroes - This site provides cartoons and interactive activities to review to concepts of digital citizenship
Resources for Preventing and Dealing with Cyberbullying- This site is very well put together and has up-to-date information, news articles, and resources. The information on this site provides some really good advice for parents with a balanced approached. This site would be great for teens as it visually very contemporary and does not have "dated" articles and resources.

Safe and Responsible Use of the Internet

It's important for children to find a balance between "fitting in" to a world where the internet is an integral part of growing up and participating in a way that reflects good character, integrity, and common sense. Many adults are extremely fearful about the risks to their children online. Knowledge is power when it comes to guiding children in a world that seems so unfamiliar. A recent study, "Online 'Predators' and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment," is a must-read for parents and guardians worried about what their children may face online. Some important points of this study help us understand the online world a little better:
  • It's extremely important to pay attention to your teens' online activities to determine which tools they're using and how they are using them.
  • Predators are more likely to communicate with teens in chatrooms and through IM rather than their social networking pages on MySpace and Facebook.
  • Media coverage of online predators has been sensationalized. For example, most online predators who solicit are teenage boys.
  • Posting personal information online by itself does not put young people at risk for danger. When teens post personal information along with engaging in other risky behavior, such as talking to unknown people online about provocative subject matter, they can put themselves at risk. In addition, studies have found that teens that engage in risky behavior offline, are more likely to put themselves at risk online.
  • Posting personal information including provocative pictures, secrets, or other revealing information should be avoided for many reasons. These include the opportunity for cyberbullies to use information to damage reputations, the opportunity for scammers to use information to steal identities, and depending on the content - can impact the decision of future employers and colleges.

Safe Use of the Internet Resources - This is a very comprehensive and informative site. Find articles about recent news events, and a program including Games for kids to help teach kids to be safe online. This site is great for parents to get a true sense of the impact of technology on our children's lives.
Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use- Nancy Willard, the executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, is a recognized authority on issues related to the safe and responsible use of the Internet. She publishes many articles in education publications, along with books on the subject of online safety. Her approach is extremely well balanced. She is a huge proponent of using technology in education, but understands the complexities involved when children are online. Great site with engaging videos presenting important messages. In addition, subscribe to NetFamilyNews email newsletter. It is extremely informative and a valuable resource.
Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens - This is the website that goes along with the book of the same name by Nancy Willard.
Developing safe and smart Internet Citizens- In this article on cNet News, Parry Aftab lays out some tips and strategies for parents of children of all ages.
Department of Justice - Rules in Cyberspace - Basic rules for children.
A YouTube Primer for Parents- With over 73 million videos, and 150,000 being uploaded every day, parents need to understand YouTube.
Don't Believe the Type - This is another site sponsored by
NPR Radio - Teens Take Advantage of Online Privacy Tools- Listen to this audio file of an interview with a teen who posts online to get a young person's perspective on internet privacy.
NPR Radio - Teens' Online "Friends" Often Number in Hundreds- This is interview is with one of the foremost experts of the online life of teens. She gives interesting information about the long term impact of posting information on websites like MySpace and FaceBook.
Article from School Library Journal- This is a very good article for parents to read. It proposes that we shift our focus from fear of the internet to helping teens develop healthy understanding of relationships.
Article from Business Week - This article is about the "dark side of anonymity". Although the focus of the article is about the experiences of college students and posting damaging information on the internet, parents of younger children benefit from knowing the impact. Find review of movies, games, TV shows, and more
BeWebAware - great site from Canada, easy to navigate with realistic strategies for parents of every age group

Social Networking

Information for parents about teen use of spaces like MySpace, Facebook, and Hi5
MySpace cheat sheet for parents- This article from is "everything you'd every want to know about MySpace, but were afraid to ask." With millions of members, if your child doesn't have a profile, chances are a few of his friends do. It's important to have all the information to be engaged in your child's online world.
NS Teens - Making Safer Online Choices- This page is a set of guidelines for those posting online, including tips on "friends", photos, and private information.
Lecture about the value of Social Networking- This is a script from a talk by Dannah Boyd, an expert on Social Networking and young people. She has done years of research on the societal impact of social networking sites and in this paper explains the MySpace and why kids gravitate to it in such numbers.
Profile of a Teen Online Victim- This article is from Net Family News. It is a small part of a presentation made to Congress last year about online safety.
Teen Guide to Safe Blogging- The audience for this article are teens. It lays out common sense advice to teens who are blogging. As with the site, this provides videos to get important messages to teens. The information here is geared to a little older student.
NetLingo - a language developed by kids for chat, texting, IM. Imagine a group of people across the world collaboratively developing their own language, (with no state standards and no grownups telling giving them direction).

A video from gives a great overview of tips and tricks for parents

Cyberbullying PSA

Cyberbullying PSA 2

Cyberbullying Video - Parry Aftab

Think Before You Post

Social Networking for the Very Young

Recognizing how children enjoy interactive and social features on the web, many websites that are built for children now include some degree of "social networking" features. Some of these websites provide opportunities for children to create content and post messages, whether it be chat, comments, or stories. Parental involvement is required to enable certain features of the sites. It's like "social networking lite" or "practice" for posting online profiles. These sites do a service to our children by creating an extremely safe environment which is adult monitored or that has strict controls set up to prevent any misuse. Children are learning how to use to web to communicate in a way that is safe and promotes positive social behavior. They are being prepared to participate in electronic communication that is mainstream in this culture and used in the workforce as well. The downside....branding, advertising, and the materialistic nature of the content is pervasive. Parents may need to counter all of that with discussions about commercialism on the web. A study released in May 2008 by Consumer Reports WebWatch and the Mediatech Foundation illustrates how young children respond to advertising and marketing tactics online. The study, "Like Taking Candy from a Baby: How Young Children Interact with Online Environments," used ethnographic methods and focused on young children, ages 2½ to 8. __Download a PDF of the study__. The study indicates some disturbing trends with some websites that are created for the very young:

  • Children as young as 2 1/2 are online either by watching older siblings or parents, children as young as 3 use the content by themselves
  • The internet is an extremely commercial medium
  • Some websites that are designed for children entice children to fill out registration forms and threaten to "lock up" content they've created until a purchase of a paid subscription is made
  • Many sites promote the idea of consumerism such as a reward-for-work, awarding points, or currency for success, allowing purchases of items in the virtual world
  • Even non-profit content displays logos and sponsor brand names
  • Some sites mismatch of content to child's ability resulting in the child needing help
  • Even with safety measure in place with sites like Club Penguin, children find "workarounds". Read this article about common ways children get around the security that these sites have in place to protect children. Top 8 Workarounds in kids Virtual Worlds

Here are some recommendations:
  • Keep an eye on the screen and pay attention to the directions and if the content matches the child's ability
  • "Free offers" should be looked at carefully
  • Read the terms of use agreements and privacy policies before you click "I agree"
  • Set search engine preferences to "SafeSearch" (Google)

Popular Sites for Kids - in case you've heard about them

Webkins - extremely popular with children, interactive, but requires the purchase of toys to fully participate, recommended by Consumerwebwatch as having some of the best content. Here is an article written by a parent (who is also a school principal about the learning potential of Webkins)

Club Penguin - also wildly popular with children, most of the site can be used for free but some features need paid subscription and/or parental permission recommended by Consumerwebwatch as having some of the best content

Nicktropolis - This new 3-D virtual world, launched about a year ago has games, videos, chat, and customized rooms. Kids can use pre-written phrases or parents can activate real-time chat. They can create their own avatar and even vote on new features added to the site.

Disney Extreme Digital - Disney has had a website for kids for over ten years, but this service with chat and channels devoted to movies, TV, music and games is fairly new. Parental permission allows the children to have a "key" to participate in the "True Friends" chat feature.

In The News

The following links will take you to a set of recent news articles about the current trends of online behavior and the way technology is impacting our children's lives, particularly in their decision making and safety.

Social Networking