Your Digital Citizenship Resource Guide

digital citizenship, digital literacy, education, schools, cyberbullying

What is Digital Citizenship?

Essentially, it is responsible technology use rooted in community awareness. In order to be practice good digital citizenship, you must consider how your actions online can compromise your safety, and also of those (virtually) around you. In recent years, many school districts have begun implementing digital citizenship education for educators and students. Why? Digital citizenship education is not only essential for student online safety but also integral for cyberbullying prevention.

At the advent of personal computing, many focused mainly on digital literacy, the ability to understand and integrate into a digital society. However, understanding the technology is not enough. By contrast, digital citizenship is all encompassing. Common Sense Media defines multiple components of digital citizenship including awareness of Internet Safety, Privacy and Security, Relationships & Communication, Cyberbullying, Digital Footprint, Self Image & Identity, Information Literacy, and Copyright Laws.

digital citizenship, digital literacy

Google Trends search frequencies for “digital citizenship” vs “digital literacy” from 2012 – present.

Then, with personal computing came to the rise of social media and cyberbullying. However, though cyberbullying awareness has increased over the years, the numbers for digital citizenship queries are dismal – especially given the positive relationship between them. In fact, many schools require digital citizenship education as part of their 1:1 Acceptable Use Policy. Some states even mandate digital training for students and administrators for school districts to receive funding. Florida House Bill 5101, grants at least $250,000 for digital classroom development. To receive this funding, each district must submit a digital classroom plan which includes provisions for digital citizenship education.

digital citizenship, digital literacy

Search frequency for “cyberbullying” and “digital citizenship” (2012-2017) – we need to close this gap.


The following free education resources are intended to impart digital citizenship best practices in the everyday technology usage of parents, educators, and students:

Teach InCtrl

The Internet & Television Association (NCTA) launched InCtrl to provide free lessons for both teachers and students on digital citizenship. InCtrl is unique from other online curriculums in two main ways:

  • it provides guides for teaching digital citizenship across different subject areas, giving specifics for how to integrate digital citizenship into English/Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math, and Library/Media.
  • the curriculum is based heavily on collaboration and communication

Common Sense Media Curriculum

Common Sense Media has crafted a Digital Citizenship curriculum intended to teach children how to make “safe, smart, and ethical decisions online”. Lesson plans come in a variety of formats (PDFS, iBooks, Nearpod, videos, interactive games, etc), segmented by grade (K-12) and subject. 76% of public schools across the US use these guides. However, it is not isolated only to the classroom. They also provide separate modules for professional development, teacher training, and family education.

Microsoft Digital Citizenship Training

Last month, Microsoft released their “Digital Civility Index” in honor of the 5th anniversary of Safer Internet Day in the US. Despite their findings, Microsoft is still optimistic for a safer Internet and has started a new initiative The Digital Civility Campaign. This is an addition to their newly released training courses published for the public on their Microsoft Education platform.

Their 30 min Digital Citizenship course provides a toolkit for educators to use in their classrooms and is based on three pillars: (1) Digital Literacy, (2) Digital Civility, and (3) Information Literacy.

iKeepSafe Generation Safe – New Media Mentor for Digital Citizenship

The iKeepSafe organization provides benchmark tests (ex: 360 Self Assessment) to help schools examine the school’s e-safety competence. They then break down Digital Citizenship Success into six tenets: each page devoted to an individual element provides (1) comprehensive definition (2) tips for schools (3) tips for youth and (4) guiding questions to assess readiness. iKeepSafe also breaks down concepts into three action items – Prevention, Detection & Intervention, and Incident Management & Response – accompanied by worksheets and themed curriculums for classrooms.


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The Edtech Revolution: 2010 – 2017

School Devices People Isometric

In December 2010, The Journal –“the leading Technology based education publication for K-12 and higher education”– published an article with a 5-prong prediction for the following year. Will the cloud continue to reign? Will more schools embrace student-centric mobile devices? These were the pressing questions of the time – a time 8-months after the release of the first iPad and 6-months before the release of the first Chromebook.

Now, we know that edtech has been proven to improve test scores and overall classroom engagement. But, how does the 2010 vision for edTech match what’s actually happening today?


1. “There will be more momentum for mobile devices in classrooms with an eye toward affordable alternatives to traditional 1:1 rollouts.”

The 1:1 initiative aimed for districts to issue each student a laptop for use in-school and at home. For some districts, the cost per student quickly became unrealistic to initially implement, leading schools to create alternate strategies.

Then there was the iPad. Appealing to all ages for all occasions, the iPad topped the market in the following years after its release. Given that many children were acquiring iPads for personal use, some schools adopted a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy. Districts even integrated the two models to cut costs.

However, it was the Chromebook (2011) that truly revolutionized 1:1. While the iPad cost anywhere from $300 – $400, Chromebooks were sold from $199. The cost, plus it’s easy manageability and durability, made Chromebooks a main player in the edtech game. In 2012, Chromebooks accounted for only 1% of the devices sold to US classrooms; now, they make up more than half of the edtech market.

2. “Web-based instruction will gain more traction at the K-12 level.”

2010 was also the year that the Common Core Standards Initiative was enacted in response to numerous indicators of low student academic performance. Although the Common Core itself elicits mixed feelings, its effect on edtech is unwavering: “Integral to the Common Core was the expectation that they would be tested on computers using online standardized exams. As Secretary Duncan’s chief of staff wrote at the time, the Common Core was intended to create a national market for book publishers, technology companies, testing corporations, and other vendors.”

Indeed, $2.3 Billion has been invested in US K-12 education technology companies since 2010. Globally, edtech spending is predicted to reach $252 Billion by 2020.

3. “More tech-based monitoring and assessment tools will be incorporated into to the instructional mix.”

In 2000, the FCC created the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). CIPA requires schools and libraries to install measures to protect children from obscene or harmful content in exchange for discounts offered by the E-rate program. Many schools employ the use of a web filter to meet these requirements; however, administrators required new solutions that extended protection to school-owned devices at home.

Monitoring now includes take home policies and cyberbullying & self-harm detection. Parents are engaged via student activity reports on school-owned devices.

4. “The cloud will help ease the financial burden on schools while helping to expand technological capabilities.”

1:1 + Common Core = $$$$$. Valerie Strauss, a Washington Post reporter, claimed: “The financial cost of implementing Common Core has barely been mentioned in the national debates. All Common Core testing will be done online. This is a bonanza for the tech industry and other vendors. Every school district must buy new computers, new teaching materials, and new bandwidth for the testing. At a time when school budgets have been cut in most states and many thousands of teachers have been laid off, school districts across the nation will spend billions to pay for Common Core testing.”

Ironically, the cloud brought us light. Along with Chromebooks came Google Apps for Education – a suite of free, cloud-based productivity tools that allow for easy collaboration and engagement on any device. Check out their “Impact Portraits” to see specific examples of how the GSuite has benefited school districts in a variety of ways.

In addition, cloud-based web filtering allowed schools to abandon appliance based filters – saving them time, money, and effort with utmost CIPA compliance.

5. “Teachers will have access to expanded professional development programs.”

In 2011, the FCC updated CIPA compliance requirements. By 2012, all school Internet safety policies had to include educational programs detailing proper online behavior, cyberbullying awareness and response. In order to impart this knowledge to their students, teachers also had to go through digital literacy training.

Now, many schools now provide digital training professional workshops to help teachers integrate online safety best practices in their everyday classrooms. Some states mandate digital citizenship training for students and administrators in order for school districts to receive funding. By the 2014 House Bill 5101, each Florida school district will be granted at least $250,000 for digital classroom development. In order to receive this funding, each district must submit a digital classroom plan. The proposal must meet Florida Department of Education criteria.This includes creating a device Acceptable/Responsible Use Policy for students and providing digital literacy training for teachers, both of which are intended to combat cyberbullying by teaching students to be good digital citizens.

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How to Use Technology to #EndCyberbullying

cyberbullying, students, school, technology

Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but the recent proliferation of social media harassment merits its own name. Cyberbullying is unique in that aggressors can be safely situated behind a screen in their own homes, while victims are subject to its effects at school, at home, and everywhere in between. It is pervasive and relentless, as what is posted online can resurface anytime.

Although cyberbullying is a direct result of increased device usage, we can use technology to our advantage to prevent, detect, and act against cyberbullying.


Common Sense Media introduced Common Sense Education’s K-12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum to help educators and school administrators teach proper online behavior, digital citizenship best practices, and educate students on the consequences of cyberbullying. The curriculum includes eight modules ranging from Privacy & Security to Cyberbullying & Digital Drama to Self-Image & Identity.

They have created engaging online student interactive games – “digital games to tackle real-world dilemmas” – for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 to instill good technology habits. This toolkit is free and available to everyone online via Downloadable PDFs, Nearpod, and iBooks.

ReThink Words, created by student Trisha Prabhu, is a patent-pending software that 1) uses context-sensitive filtering technology to determine if a post may be harmful and 2) asks the user to reconsider posting the potentially damaging message. Research shows that 93% of the time, students do not follow through with the post after being asked to ReThink.


Our own sentiment-analysis based technology – Auditor by Securly– uses Natural Language Processing & Artificial Intelligence algorithms to detect any signs of harassment or self-harm in Gmail. Through Delegated Administration, we then directly alert school guidance counselors and principals of suspicious student online activity. Parents are notified ASAP with email reports and through the Parent Portal.

This technology serves a dual-purpose: eliminating bullying and intervening in self-harm/suicide cases. The two facets are related by a causal relationship termed “Cyberbullicide” by the American Public Health Association. Mark Nelson, IT Admin of Romeo Community Schools, remarks, “Of the many features distinguish Securly, none are so important as Sentiment Analysis.  We have contacted school counselors four times to make them aware of alarming posts by teenagers, so they could intervene with students and parents.  The avoidance of a single tragedy with one of our students makes Sentiment Analysis invaluable.”


Using STOPit!, students can anonymously report cyberbullying in real-time – empowering them to stand up for themselves and their peers. Students can send photos, videos, or screenshots as evidence of cyberbullying through two-way anonymous messaging to school administration. The app also includes access to a 24-hour crisis center.

In India, a new anti-cyberbullying initiative revolves around a single hashtag: #IamTrolledHelp. This policy allows victims of cyberbullying to use this hashtag or send an email reporting cases of online harassment; the government then investigates each case. The Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, started this new protocol in response to the climbing cyberbullying rates aimed at women and children. For example, singer Chinmayi Sripaada was bombarded with threats of rape and violence – her case led to India’s first arrests for cyberbullying.

U.S.-based Taruna Aswani used Facebook to out her international blackmailer, publicly posting screenshots of emails she received that threatened to leak nudes and intimate content if she did not perform sexual acts for him. She is now working with the cyber crime deputy commissioner to track down the hacker, and has received hundreds of messages from other girls thanking her for inspiring them to speak out against their bullies.

Get involved during National Cyberbullying Prevention Month and join the movement to #EndBullying today! To find out more information on bullying prevention, check out the following resources:

<li>STOMP Out Bullying

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Cyberbullying Prevention for the Classroom

cyberbullying, online student safety, child safety

Online harassment continues to increase each year.

As cyberbullying rates reach an all time high among young adults, what are parents and teachers to do?

Yes, Anti-Bullying Laws do exist and cyberbullying is ILLEGAL!  Laws vary by state, but cover the necessities.  According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, while only 23 states directly mention “cyberbullying”, 48 states include protection against electronic harassment.  These laws essentially grant school systems authority to enact mandatory cyberbullying prevention policies and decide upon appropriate consequences. believes there are 11 key components (shared by each state’s anti-bullying laws) to consider when creating an anti-cyberbullying strategy.

Though seemingly verbose, these components are quite simple and perfectly adaptable to everyday classroom culture.  See below for the *top items to share with your students:

Purpose Statement: Why do we need cyberbullying laws?

1 in 10 students grades 6-12 experienced cyberbullying and 15% of high school students were bullied last year.

Explain to your students why these laws are necessary, and the effects of cyberbullying.  Students who are cyberbullied are more likely to struggle personally and in school.  Bullying can worsen feelings of rejection, isolation, depression, etc. which can lead to suicidal behavior.

Statement of Scope: How far do cyberbullying laws reach, and should they?

Most cyberbullying occurs away from school grounds.

Explain to students that no matter the location, cyberbullying is still criminal and under the jurisdiction of school policy.

Over 25% of states have specified that schools are able to discipline students for incidents that endanger the learning environment off campus.  Federal law allows them to do so; a variety of Supreme Court cases rule in favor of school authority.

Specification of Prohibited Conduct: What actions count as cyberbullying?  

Clearly define and provide examples of what qualifies as cyberbullying.

It seems that many students are unsure about the concept, even casually writing off teasing and taunting online as the norm.  Sending a mean or threatening text, posting hurtful words/images, and impersonating someone online are all considered cyberbullying to a certain extent.  For a more extensive list, see here.

Enumeration of Specific Characteristics: What topics should one avoid?

Harassment need not be based on a specific characteristic to be considered bullying.  Mockery of differentiating factors –race, ethnicity, color, gender, sexual orientation– should not be tolerated.

North Carolina: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 115C-407.15(a) (2010): “Bullying or harassing behavior includes, but is not limited to, acts reasonably perceived as being motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, socioeconomic status, academic status, gender identity, physical appearance, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, developmental, or sensory disability, or by association with a person who has or is perceived to have one or more of these characteristics.”

Communication Plan: How can students report cyberbullying?  What are the consequences? How will parents, faculty, and students be involved?

Alert students and parents of the cyberbullying policy and how to get help.

Students should feel safe reporting instances of cyberbullying, and schools should provide avenues of seeking help – hotlines, guidance counselors, etc.  The student body, as well as their parents, should be notified of the cyberbullying policy and consequences of violation.

Take for example a San Ramon Middle School’s policy.  Their “communication plan” lists examples of cyberbullying, consequences (from a minimum of suspension to a maximum of expulsion), and the appropriate supporting education codes.

Training and Preventative Education: What can I do prevent cyberbullying?

The more you know about cyberbullying and how to handle it, the easier it will be to implement prevention methods!  Schools must equip their staff with the tools to stop the bullying at the source! provides training modules for community leaders, teachers, bus drivers, etc. Technology-based solutions are also available for schools to utilize

In addition, teach students to be good digital citizens and respectfully utilize online resources.
*Missing components from Stopbullying’s analysis include Development and Implementation of LEA Policies, Components of LEA Policy, Review of Local Policies, Transparency and Monitoring, Statement of Rights to Other Legal Resources

Much is to be considered when creating overarching anti-cyberbulling measures, and schools try their best.  However, keeping your kids safe from cyberbullying starts at home.  Implementing social media safety measures and monitoring your child’s online activity are just some of the many ways to do so.  For other good resources on cyberbullying prevention check out the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

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How to Protect Kids from Cyberbullying

how to stop cyberbullying and how to protect kids from cyberbullying

Search volume of the term “cyberbullying”, which shows a clear upward trend in recent years.
Source: Google Trends.

Teens are already notorious for taunting their peers, and now technology has provided another avenue for adolescents to become involved in destructive behavior. Thus began the rise of cyberbullying: bullying via electronic communication usually occurring in the form of mean-spirited and particularly harmful messages.

The fact that 88% of young adults use cell phones regularly only serves to exacerbate the issue of cyberbullying. In fact, about 43% of kids have reported being bullied online while 87% have witnessed cyberbullying of others. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are hot spots for bullying, as 58% of kids say they have been negatively addressed on social media. However, growing awareness of the topic has led to various initiatives to stop cyberbullying  at home and in school.

Here are a few tips to protect kids from cyberbullying:

Educate kids about cyberbullying

Research indicates that most kids are not completely sure what constitutes the act of cyberbullying. In a recent study about student screen time conducted by Securly, K-12 students spoke very casually about online teasing/taunting as if it were an expected norm.  Many students may not realize when they have gone too far, or when someone else has crossed the line.

Acts that can be considered cyberbullying include using offensive language (e.g., hateful, derogatory, racist, or homophobic remarks), harassment, gossip, or even impersonating someone on the web.  It is important that kids are informed of the cyberbullying resources and support systems available to them  – unfortunately, only 1 in 10 victims reach out to an adult about the abuse.  

Teach students how to be good digital citizens! Qualities of digital citizenship include responsible and considerate behavior on the web. Schools should (and many do) instill a firm anti-cyberbullying policy and a report system in order to prevent cyberbullying.

It’s important for cyberbullying victims to realize they are not alone; too often, kids who are bullied can slip into depression and are as much as 9 times more likely to consider suicide.  And as we have seen in many recent tragic school shootings in the United States, seeking revenge for being bullied or cyberbullied by peers is often the strongest motivation for committing such a violent act. Understanding the ramifications of cyberbullying will help kids be more considerate of how they treat others.

Customize privacy settings on social media

Cyberbullies can be peers, but also strangers on the Internet under anonymous usernames that post hurtful comments.  This can be just as impactful as mean-spirited words from someone they know.  

Kids can limit their social media circles to a positive environment consisting of friends, family, and trusted acquaintances.  This can be as simple as being discriminating when accepting friend requests.  

Most social media sites have features that allow the user to limit who can see their profile. Facebook in particular has a feature that allows users to hide photos from specific people of the user’s choosing.  Check out this article for instructions on how to customize privacy settings on various social media platforms.  

Use anti-cyberbullying technology

Protect kids from cyberbullying by stopping it at the source!  Get kids to think about what they’re about to post by using helpful new technological innovations.

High schooler Trisha Prabhu created an app called “ReThink” which asks kids to think twice about the content which they are posting if the message seems to have a negative tinge. She found that 93% of the time, children chose not to post an offensive message.  The part of the adolescent brain that controls decision making is not fully developed, which explains why young adults often times make rash decisions without fully considering the consequences.

There are also a variety of cyberbullying prevention apps that detect keywords relating to bullying, sexual content, profanity, etc which can help parents monitor their child’s behavior. The recent advances made in machine learning and natural language processing allow some apps to detect sentiments of bullying and self-harm (even in the absence of keywords) used on social media.

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