Digital citizenship: What it is, why it matters

It’s a bit of buzzword in educational circles today. But what does it really mean? What (if anything) is special about good digital citizenship as distinct from good citizenship generally?

The short answer is that the core qualities of a good citizen - a good person, really - are pretty much the same online or offline. In essence, it’s about being kind, respectful and responsible, and being committed to making the world a better place.

Here’s another thing that has remained a constant through the ages: Students need the grown-ups in their lives to provide the guidance they’ll need to develop into good citizens.

Who needs it?

Arguably, in a digital age, children need direction from parents, teachers and other mentors even more than previous generations.

Partly this is because their online lives are thrusting them into an adult world of information and entertainment earlier than any previous generation. The average age of exposure to online porn - 11 - is a poignant case in point.

Facts v. fakery

The “fake news” phenomenon is another. In a world of legacy media, dominated by traditional newspapers and network television, audiences took for granted a level of accuracy and professionalism in news reporting.

In today’s de-centralised digital environment, there are so many more voices - and so much more misinformation. Assessing reliable online content is tricky even for educated adults. Equipping our children with the critical thinking skills necessary to tell facts from fakery online has become an urgent priority.

Social media has multiplied students’ opportunities to connect in positive ways with peers. But it has also multiplied opportunities to connect in negative ways.

Everybody is a stranger

And because the internet is by definition a public place, students’ contact with strangers is inevitable.

 “Everybody on the internet is a stranger.”

Family Zone cyber expert and former internet detective Brett Lee

Reacting safely and appropriately is that much more necessary for today’s children - but it is also that much more challenging, and becomes necessary at ever-earlier ages.

There’s another factor too. The seeming sophistication of today’s digital generation - and their undeniable tech-savviness - can fool adults into over-estimating their maturity. It’s too easy to believe that there’s nothing we can possibly teach them about the online world that they don’t already know.




But that would be a fatal error. Knowing how to use technology and knowing how to exercise judgment are two very different skillsets.

So what’s the deal?

An excellent poster from the International Society for Technology in Education summarising the parallel but distinct hallmarks of good citizenship, offline and online, lays it all out.


Promoting good digital citizenship is at the heart of everything we do at Family Zone Education Solutions. Our cloud-based solutions empower schools and parents to work together to manage students’ internet activity on every device everywhere.

But what really puts us in a class of our own? It’s our comprehensive, community-wide approach based on shared knowledge, values and beliefs.

Family Zone’s unique Cyber Experts program is a key element of that approach, providing partner schools with direct, personalised access to highly acclaimed online-education specialists. Your school’s chosen Cyber Expert will work collaboratively with you to integrate world-leading digital safety practice with educational initiatives to promote digital citizenship.

To learn more, or to book a demo today, visit

Topics: Screen time, digital citizenship, classroom management, screens in school

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