Educational technology tips for teachers, librarians and schools.

5 Digital Citizenship Lessons for 21st Century Learners

5 Digital Citizenship Lessons for 21st Century Learners

By Jessica Sanders

“…When was the last time you talked to your students about how to use good manners when leaving a comment on a blog post? When was the last time you and your students discussed what to do if someone is harassing you online or wants to meet you in person? These are the new social skills for our students.” – Mary Beth Hertz, K-8 Technology Teacher

These lessons, which include teaching good Internet manners and the importance of a positive online reputation, are on the forefront of digital citizenship discussions. It can be overwhelming to watch the news, speak with coworkers, or listen to parents and wonder how you, as a teacher, can bring these lessons into your classroom.

Your best bet: start small, with a few key digital citizenship lessons spread throughout the year. You’ll soon discover how to easily implement these new programs in your classroom. Get started with these five important lessons.

digital citizenship_sylvia

1. You Can’t Believe Everything You Read Online 

The age of encyclopedias written by industry experts is gone. Now, your students are inundated with resources, many of which provide false or inaccurate information. For example, websites like Wikipedia can be edited and written by anybody, making it an unreliable source. Whereas, online journals and digests provide information written by qualified authors.


Give your students a topic and task them with finding authoritative sources, turning their findings into a short presentation, blog post or paper.

Integrate It

Combine this with a lesson on citing sources. Teach them how to cite a book or magazine source, along with an online journal or reputable website.

2. Your Digital Footprints Will Follow You Forever 

The second we put something online, it’s out of our hands, sitting on a server or website that may likely never be within your reach to remove. Students must learn at a young age to use appropriate language photos on social media sites, blogs and other websites.

“Students must learn at a young age to use appropriate language photos on social media sites, blogs and other websites.”


Create your own game of memory. Make two identical sets of cards with appropriate and inappropriate classroom and online behavior. When they make a match, they have to say whether the behavior is acceptable.

Integrate It

Use this as a lesson for the beginning of the year. Teach students about appropriate classroom behavior and tie in the lessons for online behavior.

More: What Do Your Students’ Digital Footprints Look Like?

 3. It’s Not Always Appropriate to Be On Your Phone 

Take your elbows off the kitchen table; raise your hand; say please. These are skills that are still valuable and important in the 21st century, but now they need to be taught alongside, don’t be on your phone when someone is talking to you or don’t text during class.


Jeopardy is a classroom staple because it’s fun. Use it to add excitement to your lesson about how to be respectful to others when using a cell phone.

Integrate It

Use this game to teach traditional and newer, digital-citizen manners. Some of your categories could be:

  • Interacting With Students in School
  • Using Your Phone During In Class
  • True or False: It’s Appropriate to Use Your Phone When…
  • Behavior During Lessons

 4. Cyberbullying is Not Okay

Anti-bullying programs have always been important in school. With the introduction of the Internet, there’s a new side to this already prevalent school problem. “Since it can happen to a student at home as well as in school, [cyberbullying] can be more pervasive and traumatic for victims than traditional bullying,” according to

It’s more important than ever to build this digital citizenship lesson into your curriculum because studies have found that even small amounts of peer aggression can be dangerous in children of all ages.

“Studies have found that even small amounts of peer aggression can be dangerous in children of all ages.”


Students need to learn what cyberbullying is, how it harms other students, and what they can do to find help for themselves or a friend. 

Integrate It suggests a sign-making campaign. Build an arts and crafts afternoon into your lesson plan where students discuss this topic, research together, and craft signs to hang around the school.

Use this as an opportunity to teach them how to craft clear and concise messaging—a lesson that can be practiced with poster making, and then used later in class writing. Pitch this as a school-wide campaign to raise as much awareness as possible.

More: How to Empower Your Students in the Digital Age

5. The Internet Has More to Offer Than Games and Social Media

Even as an adult, it’s easy to get caught up in using the Internet just to scroll through Facebook or play Farmville to pass the time. Your students can benefit from a lesson on how they can use it as a productive tool, both in class and during spare time at home.


Show students the many ways they can use the Internet, including writing with collaborative tools, blogging, watching educational videos (TED, for example) or sharing their own unique view of the world with a breakout group activity.

Integrate It

Turn this into a group writing lesson in which each group explores a different way to use the Internet. They can turn their findings into a blog post or Prezi presentation to share with the class.

Make your job less daunting by incorporating these digital citizenship skills into your current lessons. A few small tweaks make it easy to discuss these topics without having to re-write your curriculum.

Special thanks to Sylvia Duckworth for the beautiful sketch for this post. You can see more of her art at her Flickr page; follow her on Twitter @sylviaduckworth.

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