The Definition Of Digital Citizenship


the-definition-of-digital-citizenshipThe Definition Of Digital Citizenship

by Terry Heick

As more and more students interact digitally–with content, one another, and various communities–the concept of digital citizenship becomes increasingly important.

Which begs the question: what is digital citizenship?

Well, first citizenship, which is formally defined as “the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community.” This makes citizenship far more complex than a simple legal matter, but rather one that consists of self-knowledge, interaction, and intimate knowledge of a place, its people, and its cultural history.

So digital citizenship is nearly the same thing–“the quality of a response to membership in a digital community” would be a good first crack at the definition.

Revising that might more clearly articulate the differences between physical and digital communities, so a decent definition of digital citizenship then might be “Self-monitored participation that reflects conscious interdependence with all (visible and less visible) community members”

But that leaves out the idea of content itself, which leads us to a pretty good definition for educators: “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.”

Still too wordy? Maybe a shorter version for students–with some moral imperatives and implied advice–could be: “the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on.”

Later this week, we’re going to have a more in-depth look at the characteristics of digital citizenship, but the infographic below I ran across on last week takes a more student-friendly approach by defining digital citizenship in terms of its actions and habits: using, sifting, mastering, creating–the literal actions that ultimately define the tone of a student’s interactions with their digital environments.

This makes it useful not just as a visual for teacher understanding, but for students to discuss, internalize, and apply themselves. In fact, hanging it in the classroom, computer labs, media centers, and other highly-visible places might make sense as well: the rules of the world of digital networks and social media.


41 Responses

      • terryheick

        07/21/2013, 09:06 pm

        Yes, just please link back to in the first line, something to the effect of “This article was first published on” with an embedded link.

        • Pia

          07/24/2013, 06:30 am

          I want to define digital citizenship in my PHD research. I am also interested in digital citizenship and learning (in school and outside school). Have you any references/literature of education you can recommend?

          • Keri Lamle

            03/11/2014, 03:08 am

            I would recommend anything by David Thornburg. He has been an advocate for responsible technology use since the 1980’s. Digital Citizenship is a theme woven though out all of his books.
            Also, “Curriculum 21 Essential Education for a Changing World” by Heidi Hayes Jacob and “Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America” by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson.
            If you are looking for videos or training related to Digital Citizenship, then recommend Atomic Learning’s 21st Century Skills videos or NetSmartz has some good resources.
            Wrapping this up… there are also some great blog articles out there. :) like this one!

    • MrsT

      10/01/2013, 02:19 am

      Thanks so much. Costco was trying to protect your copyrights. You may want to consider marking items you want to make useable/printable without permission with a Creative Commons license — perhaps printing services would recognize it without requiring teachers to print off a usage notice. But I really do appreciate you getting back to me.

  1. MrsT

    09/29/2013, 02:42 am

    I would like to print a single copy of the B&W Digital Citizenship poster for my classroom, but I need permission, a release to print. May I have permission? Or who should I ask?

  2. Katie Ritter

    01/27/2014, 02:47 pm

    This is great- thank you so much for posting. I’m planning a Digital Citizenship Day for our 9th-12th grade students at the end of February, and I’ve been wrestling with defining/simplifying the idea of the term “digital citizenship’ for our students (and teachers). This is perfect! We’re starting the day with an all school assembly and then progressing through normal schedules, where each department is covering a topic/area of digital citizenship. Read more about the progress of the day here:

    Would it be alright if I used the first image in your post (with the definition on it) for some of our materials for the day? I would like to make a poster out of it to hang in classrooms.

  3. Marquez

    01/10/2015, 07:40 pm

    There is a real need to engage as a citizen of this digital age. Very important to me.

    It’s my goal to ensure that I am respecting and engaging in a inspirational way.

  4. Jody Velde

    01/28/2015, 07:48 pm

    Hello! I am presenting at TCEA 2015 about a digital citizen PBL my students did. Can I use your digital citizenship definition image above (with credit given of course) as a discussion piece for my presentation?

  5. Jennifer Smith

    09/11/2015, 02:54 pm

    Great post and I love the chart is it okay for me to use this as reference in my Soft Chalk presentation, I would like more specifically to use the chart…I am a student working toward my teaching degree. Thanks!

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