3 Tools for Teaching Digital Citizenship to Kids

Ashlie Swicker |
3 months ago
Simon & Schuster

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Teaching digital citizenship is one of the most important jobs elementary librarians have. Giving internet safety and etiquette lessons to younger students is completely new territory in education. Today’s adults didn’t have access to social media or internet interaction when they were in 3rd grade. Today’s elementary students were recently asked to spend a year minimum doing all their learning on internet platforms. No matter your feeling about the age that students should be introduced to the wild world of strangers on the internet, modern kids have been thrust into it. I often tell my students “we’re not going to live in a world where we don’t encounter strangers on the internet, so we need to learn how to do it safely.”

This is where digital citizenship lessons come in. Futurelearn.com defines digital citizenship as “the ability to safely and responsibly access digital technologies, as well as being an active and respectful member of society, both online and offline.” This includes safety, kindness, information literacy, and more. At the kindergarten level, you can even find lessons on balancing time spent on and away from screens, or dealing with big emotions when it’s time to turn off preferred activities. As our children enter into an entirely new way of dealing with the world, we need to prepare them.

Common Sense Education

This is a great resource for an overall scope and sequence of digital citizenship lessons. Ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, a huge number of lessons, videos, anchor charts, images, and worksheets are available in different languages, all free with a registered account. I use these lessons ALL the time, and don’t confine myself to the grade levels they suggest. There are amazing videos and songs that support my younger learners, and the lessons for upper elementary kiddos have sparked some of my favorite conversations.

Google’s Be Internet Awesome

Google’s digital citizenship tools include some really, really cool games. While you’re able to download a curriculum and a pledge that support the 5 main tenets of Be Internet Awesome (share with care, don’t fall for fake, secure your secrets, it’s cool to be kind, and when in doubt, talk it out), the real draw is the highly developed single player games that teach while the students play. My students ask to play these games constantly, and barely realize they’re absorbing important information. I wouldn’t use the games as my sole form of teaching digital citizenship, but they are an awesome hook for many lessons.

PBS Learning Media

PBS Learning Media has been my go to for supplemental videos about holidays and traditions for awhile, but I’ve recently been exploring their Technological Literacy section and there is a wealth for upper elementary students. The huge draw of this site is the way resources are split up by type, which is super helpful when lesson planning on the go — sometimes you need an in depth article, and sometimes you just want a quick video to kick something off. Collections like Things Explained and Above the Noise offer interesting and relevant information geared towards teens but definitely accessible for upper elementary students.

Hopefully you’ve found some resources that will help you bring the basics of digital citizenship to your students or patrons. Looking for more? Check out this list of books to help you become a better digital citizen, and see more of our weekly library features here.