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​Teaching Digital Citizenship in the K-5 Classroom

Teaching Digital Citizenship

As you begin the school year, you may be eager to try a variety of fun digital tools with your students. And as you integrate the Common Core and P21 learning standards in your classroom, it’s required that you incorporate technology in the classroom. While we love technology, it’s important to take some precautions when engaging students—especially young students—in the use of technology. The first step is to teach your students to be responsible digital citizens.

Before your kids dive in to the new and often complex digital world, take some time to teach them digital citizenship to empower them to be safe, protect their privacy, and treat others with respect. Below, we’ve offered a few, easy-to-follow strategies to empower your students, but first, let’s brush up on your knowledge of digital citizenship.

What is Digital Citizenship?

Digital Citizenship is the act of using any digital tool in an appropriate, safe, and respectful manner. Teaching the components of digital citizenship to K-5 students throughout the school year will equip them with the tools, strategies, and skills needed to make responsible and ethical choices online.

In an earlier blog, we offered strategies for teaching students about each of the nine elements of digital citizenship. This week, we will delve deeper into some of these components and offer hands-on techniques for integrating them into your K-5 classroom.

Digital Citizenship Strategies for the K-5 Classroom

Stay Safe

We are all concerned about the potential dangers of online content. Despite CIPA required content filters at school, students may still encounter information that is inappropriate for their age. To combat this, teach students to talk to a trusted grownup if they ever see, hear, or read something that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe when using digital tools. Work with your students to create online safety rules. You can also visit Carnegie Cyber Academy to learn strategies for keeping students safe while online. This interactive site offers tips, strategies, videos, and games for students to learn about digital safety and security.

Protect Your Privacy and Be Secure

Even our youngest learners use social network sites like Club Penguin and Webkinz, which require usernames and passwords to participate. Teach students that all digital account passwords—whether school or personal—should consist of letters, numbers, and symbols. Remind students to keep passwords written down in a safe place and that they should only be shared with a trusted adult, never with their friends. offers lesson plans, videos, and resources for teaching K-5 students the importance of digital security and password protection.

Be Respectful, Be Nice

Most teachers already have lessons and procedures in place for how to establish a classroom environment marked by respect, rapport, and collaboration. It is important for students to understand that the same rules apply online. Digital etiquette (i.e., netiquette) is a basic set of respect and courtesy rules to follow online. Use the Bad Netiquette Stinks video from Netsmartz to teach the basic concepts of digital respect. Then, have students take a digital etiquette quiz on BrainpopJr to test their knowledge.

Just Say “No” to Cyberbullying

 Cyberbullying can affect all digital users. Teach students how to identify, prevent, and report cyberbullying by using the Digital Passport program. This program provides students in grades 3-5 with learning activities and games about cyberbullying and many other digital citizenship elements such as privacy and safety. Students will love having the opportunity to earn badges for successfully completing each phase of the Digital Passport program. You can also share this video from Net Cetera on how to stand up to cyberbullying. Finally, be sure to share with your students your school’s acceptable use policy (AUP), or create your own class AUP with your students in the beginning of the school year. Here are examples to get you started.

Information Literacy

How often do you ask your students to use online resources to research or extend their learning? If you are like most teachers, it is probably almost every day. Cultivate a class of learners who can effectively find, retrieve, analyze, and use information online by improving their information literacy skills. Visit the Kentucky Virtual Library where students can learn how to do research online, or refer to SOS Online for multimedia lessons, presentations, videos, and teaching ideas for K-5 information literacy.

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