To be a citizen is to belong, to be part of a society, a community.  As a member of a community, we are granted certain rights and inherit certain responsibilities.  Being a digital citizen simply means being part of an online community that is much bigger and more diverse than the one we physically live and work in.  Because of this magnitude I believe there are some differences in how we practically deal with it, but I believe that all the rules of good citizenship that we strive to follow everyday apply still when we are online.

There are many ways to define what digital citizenship is.  I think it is simply a way of thinking, being and acting online (see the 40 second video).  It is learning how to behave and interact online so that we are showing the same care, thoughtfulness and respect that we show in our places of work, our families and our neighborhoods.  We must think critically, practice safety and communicate in a responsible manner.

By being a digital citizen we are granted the uses and conveniences of the internet, but unfortunately it is much easier to disregard our responsibilities online than it is in real life.  It may not always be so, but in this day and age when technology evolves faster than our comprehension of how to manage it, we are constantly trying to catch up and control the uncontrolled.

Ribble’s nine elements of Digital Citizenship are the framework for engaging in the digital world in a thoughtful, responsible manner.

It’s like learning the expectations of a new country when becoming a citizen.  The elements include access, commerce, communication, literacy, etiquette, law, rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and security.

AT this point in my life I am most interested in the eighth element: health and wellness. For my school, access is not much of an issue.  I teach in a fairly well to-do area in which most all of the students have nicer cell phones and laptops than I do.  We make use of the cell phones during class with sites like Kahoot, Quizlet, Quia and Conjuguemos almost daily.  They also have access to our LMS there and pull up their weekly activities list which I update with links for videos and listenings as well as their checklist.  However as I walk around to help them and interact with them, I often see them getting distracted by the constant stream of incoming social messages.

I would like to implement a “switch phones to Do-not-disturb” rule to help them with their focus, which I worry is down to something similar to that a goldfish.  The constant bombardment is not healthy, and the students are on their devices reading short messages, watching 20 second videos, bite sizing their world, 24/7.  They don’t get enough sleep, they don’t even interact during lunch or study hall anymore, they simply stare at their phones.  Sometimes they actually look relieved when I take them away; “for your own good” I tell them.  They never argue.  I think they know.

It is crucial to know how to help these kids USE the technology as a tool, and not allow the technology to take over their minds, time and ability to accomplish something that takes more than a few minutes.  Sustained focus, sleep and even healthy face-to-face social interaction is suffering due to overuse of the technology, so the Health and Wellness element is hugely important to me.  We should be telling these devices when we want to look at them – instead they demand attention all day (and night) long by dinging, vibrating, popping up and invading our space with things that are mostly unproductive distractions.

This is convicting for me also, because I can’t simply tell them about digital health and safety – I need to show it by my example.  Do I sometimes text while driving?  Do I spend too much time hunched over my computer thus creating neck, back and wrist problems?  Do I look at my phone in the middle of a conversation with a loved one and start texting?  Guilty.  This element is both one I need to teach and also, firstly, implement for myself.


Ribble, M. (2015). Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know (3rd ed.). Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education

What is Digital Citizenship? (n.d.). Retrieved March 01, 2018, from

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