Responsible Digital Citizenship

I’m going to give you an overview of Common Sense Education’s (CSE) Digital Citizenship curriculum & resources. If you want more on what Common Sense does, check out my previous post called “Use Some Common Sense“.

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According to a recent Pew Research Center (PRC) study, 69% of all American adults use some type of social media. Another PRC study shows nearly 80% of internet users use Facebook. The percentages only seem to increase as the age of the user decreases. There is a study from Britain that shows that 59% of children have used online social networks by the time they turn 10. Those 8 to 16 year-olds admit to ignoring the official age limits on sites like Facebook, WhatsApp, and SnapChat. 43% of those children had messaged strangers by the time they were 12. Only 32% of the parents are ‘very confident’ about helping them stay safe online.

I don’t write these statistics to scare you. Social networks can be a wonderful place to learn from others and hone your own ideas. It’s clear though that there are dangers, especially for the youngest and most vulnerable users. Children will be online, and they will interact with other people there. That’s why it’s essential to teach responsible online behavior from an early age. And that can mean so much more than just online safety. That’s why teachers and parents need a quality curriculum and resources to guide young people properly.

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In New York City, schools are required to instruct students in cyber safety instruction in order to be eligible for E-rate funding (money to improve networks and equipment). Apart from that though, it’s crucial that before we allow students to explore online with all of the wonderful EdTech resources available, they must learn to access and interact appropriately. Below are some resources that are available.

  • Common Sense – An incredibly thorough (and my favorite) digital citizenship curriculum that will be discussed in greater depth below.
  • BrainPOP – There are a lot of great videos, games, and resources on everything from online safety and digital etiquette to viruses and plagiarism. It isn’t a complete curriculum though as they too recommend Common Sense Media Resources even linking videos to different CSM topics.
  • Citizenship in the Digital Age – This is the NYCDOE’s scope and sequence for digital citizenship instruction for grade 1-12. It includes lessons and printable that was created in conjunction with Common Sense Media.
  • Respect for All – This is the NYCDOE’s training materials and programs for physical and cyberbullying.
  • i-SAFE – This is a decent curriculum that I used in the past when it was free for my school, but there are enough free resources that it’s a hard to justify paying over $100,000 for this.
  • Ever-Fi Ignition – They have a game-based digital literacy and responsibility curriculum geared towards 6-9 grade. See more about it below.

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Ever-Fi delivers free digital resources and teaches online courses to teachers on finance, wellness, diversity, and STEM topics. Their digital literacy and responsibility platform is called Ignition and uses digital storytelling games to teach about internet safety, cyberbullying, online research, hardware selection, and time management.


Digital Citizenship

Their searchable curriculum is incredibly comprehensive covering eight distinct topics across K-12. There are lesson plans, videos, student interactives, assessments, and materials for parents. You can start with their Digital Citizenship Starter Kit that was created in collaboration with Remind or see the full scope and sequence below. They have their curriculum available on Nearpod as well for schools capable of 1:1 student instruction and assessment. Don’t forget they also have integrated apps/games like Digital Passport and Digital Compass that are described below.


Digital Compass

Digital Compass is a choose-your-own-adventure that teaches students about online safety and responsibility. Each digital skill begins with a video of a child discussing the topic, making it immediately relatable to students. That is followed by an interactive story aligned to one of eight K-12 digital citizenship curricular topics. Those are followed by a mini-game that acts as an assessment of the topics discussed. Students are encouraged to retry each scenario to attempt to make new choices. It’s designed for 6th to 9th graders, but I’ve seen it work with students as young as 3rd grade. There is an educator guide available to guide you through classroom implementation. Play it on iTunes, Google Play or online.

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Digital Passport is similar to Digital Compass in that its goal is to teach students about healthy online behavior, but it’s geared more towards elementary students. Also, it has a lot of added features including tracking student data and progress. Most of the skills are taught through fun games that make learning important lessons about digital safety and responsibility engaging for students. Students earn a Digital Passport upon the completion of all of the levels.

It is Intended for students in grades 3-5 (or those near that learning level). There is webinar training for teachers exploring how to most effectively utilize the game. Instructions for setting up student accounts, monitoring student progress and accessing wrap-around professional development and student activity materials can be found at here.

By the end, students will know how to search safely, create quality passwords, participate in online communities, avoid plagiarism. and deal with cyberbullying. The app is no longer available via app stores and only available online.

Digital Bytes

Digital Bytes is another free platform geared towards teaching teenagers about appropriate online behavior. It involves a lot of video examples that could work well in teen after-school programs. There is a facilitator’s guide for those looking to begin.

Overall I think it’s clear how essential it is to educate students from an early age and continuously about appropriate digital citizenship. Find the resources and curriculum that are most impactful and engaging for your class.