How to Teach Kids Digital Citizenship


Modern Dad

News, reviews & trends for fathers – a contemporary parent’s perspective.

Digital Citizenship is a concept pioneered by organizations like the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) in which parents, schools and other technology leaders recommend focusing energy on preparing students and kids for a tech-centric society by teaching them about appropriate and positive ways to use technology, as opposed to focusing on the potential negative outcomes of technology.

So instead of spending all of our time teaching kids about cyberbullies and online predators, we should focus on teaching a curriculum of digital citizenship in which kids learn the right ways to act online and use the Internet for positive causes, such as charity.

For some issues, such as drugs or smoking, it’s easy to see the clear goal and message for kids.  Telling kids not do drugs or smoke cigarettes are very tangible, measurable and attainable goals.  But with Digital Citizenship, saying that you need to be good online is a bit more ephemeral.

For those looking for advice on how to teach kids digital citizenship or immediately apply its principles, here are a five tips to help the next generation learn to thrive online.

Do Unto Others… – Remember the golden rule, and apply it to your online interactions, especially on social networking sites.  Treat others the way you’d like to be treated, with respect, dignity and extra attention to how thoughts and actions will affect others.  Putting yourself in other people’s shoes is a great way to make sure you’re practicing positive digital citizenship.

The Grandma Rule – Before any post, message, or share, consider whether or not you’d want your grandma to see it.  Because essentially, when you post something to a social network or send it directly to a friend, you’ve lost all control and it’s theoretically possible it could make it into grandma’s hands.  So make sure everything you do or think passes the grandma test and it will likely keep kids from sharing or doing activities they otherwise shouldn’t be.

Spread Heart, Not Hurt – With a hat tip to Yahoo! Safely and Common Sense for the perfect turn of a phrase, we love the idea of a simple way for kids to remember to spread and embrace positive messages, and avoid engaging in negative behavior.  Spread positive messages and watch your social network connections and online enjoyment grow, and learn how to appropriately deal with any negative behavior you do see online.

Respect Creativity – Even though it’s easy to cut and paste, don’t claim other’s creativity as your own.  Give credit where do if you are borrowing information or spreading someone else’s message.  Don’t plagiarize works or take credit things for which you had no part of it.  Respecting the intellectual property of others is a key tenet of digital citizenship.

Remember the Three Ps of Information – All the information you share is permanent, public and powerful. Information is permanent because once you post it, it can live forever, even if you delete it off your profile.  It’s public because everyone can potentially see it.  And it’s powerful, words and online actions can have a deep and lasting impact, so use them for good.

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About author

Johner Riehl

Johner Riehl is a freelance writer focusing on families, technology and online safety. As founder and editorial director for and, sites that provide reviews and recommendations geared towards families, he examines hundreds of family-friendly games and apps every year. He’s also host of Parent Savers, a podcast aimed at helping parents of newborns, infants and toddlers. TWITTER: @FamilyTechDad

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