Guest Blogger

Digital Citizenship: Respect, Protect, Educate

Posted by jglassman on

by Dr. Mike Ribble, Ed.D.

The integration of digital technologies in schools is expanding at ever-increasing speeds. As a result, educators are seeking resources to help them use these technologies in the most effective ways to enhance learning in their classroom. Digital Citizenship is one classification of resources that can help bring focus to how students use these new technologies. Digital Citizenship Week (October 14-18, 2019) provides an opportunity to recognize the changes that are happening in our classrooms and to our students.

Digital citizenship principles are most effective if integrated across the curriculum not just during Digital Citizenship Week, but all year round. It’s also important that students recognize how the concepts of Digital Citizenship relate to their everyday lives. One way to organize and incorporate Digital Citizenship education is through reinforcing its principles of Respect, Educate and Protect (REP) and the elements embedded in each of these themes. Organizations like BrainPOP provide resources to support the integration of REP principles in the regular classroom. Here is some background and ideas to help you get started:


  • Digital Etiquette refers to electronic standards of conduct or procedures and has to do with the process of thinking about others when using digital devices. Teachers can include Digital Etiquette as part of the classroom rules or academic goals. Whether in the classroom or online, being aware of others is an important idea for everyone.
  • Digital Access is about the equitable distribution of technology and online resources. Teachers and administrators need to be aware of their community and who may or may not have access, not only in school but at home as well. Educators need to provide options for lessons and data collection such as free access in the community or provide resources for the home.
  • Digital Law refers to the electronic responsibility for actions and deeds and has to do with the creation of rules and policy that address issues related to the online world. Just as in the real world, the online world has had to create structure to protect those using these digital devices from harm. Support for issues such as cyberbullying and sexting are available from School Resource Officers and other school counsel. Administrators need to come up with positive approaches to these issues in their schools and districts.



  • Digital Communication is the electronic exchange of information. All users need to define how they will share their thoughts so that others understand the message. For students struggling to understand their place in the world, technology can help them find their own voices and express themselves.
  • Digital Literacy is the process of teaching and learning about technology and the use of technology. The better educated or “digitally literate,” students are, the more likely they are to make good decisions online, like supporting others instead of making negative comments. Digital literacy includes the discussion of media literacy and the ability to discern good information from poor, such as “fake news” from real.
  • Digital Commerce is the electronic buying and selling of goods and focuses on the tools and safeguards in place to assist those buying, selling, banking, or using money in any way in the digital space. Career and technical education use the tools of technology to show students the path for their future.


  • Digital Rights and Responsibility are those requirements and freedoms extended to everyone in a digital world. This area of Digital Citizenship is about helping students understand that when they are provided opportunities, such as the access to the Internet and use of online products, they need to be diligent in helping others as well, such as informing adults of potential problems. Educators must help students understand that protecting others both online and in the real world are essential skills to have.
  • Digital Security is the electronic precautions to guarantee safety. Viruses, worms and other bots can be passed along from one system to another just like an illness. When using devices in school or at home, understanding and being aware of attacks and how to prevent them are important skills for today and into the future.
  • Digital Health and Welfare refers to the physical and psychological well-being in a digital world. Technology provides many opportunities and enjoyment, but knowing how to segment use with the needs of ourselves and others is key to a healthy, balanced life. Educators, especially in 1:1 schools or classrooms, need to ask the question of how much screen time is appropriate for students and when using digital devices becomes a distraction from the learning process.  Common Sense Media has developed a guide on this topic.

Respect, Protect, and Educate are key principles in both the digital and real world. Recognizing similarities and differences helps us better understand the world on both sides of the device. Those in education as well as the larger community need to help each other learn how to use technology in the most appropriate manner possible. Hopefully, one day we may find that who we are online is the same as we are in real life.

For more ideas about how educators can use BrainPOP resources to celebrate Digital Citizenship Week in their own states and districts, listen to our archived webinar with October 2017’s CBE of the Month Sara Hunter!