How to Promote Digital Citizenship in the School Library

Digital Citizenship in School LibraryDigital citizenship is the ability to use technology in safe and appropriate ways. With the ubiquity of technology, students need to know how to responsibly participate in online environments.

The skills needed to be a digital citizen are skills school librarians, or media specialists, possess and are often called upon to teach. However, it isn’t always easy to come up with new and engaging ways to teach these skills. So, in honor of Digital Citizenship Week, which is Monday, October 14, 2019, to Friday, October 18, 2019, this post includes ideas for how to promote digital citizenship from the school library. These ideas can be used during scheduled library time or in partnership with classroom teachers.

6 Ways to Promote Digital Citizenship in Students

1. Discuss the importance of being responsible online.

  • Talk to students about how they are all responsible for their behavior. Following this, you can ask students to write their own contracts for how they will behave ethically and responsible online. This allows for students to consider their own wishes and the personal ways they interact online.

2. Talk to students about what happens to information that is posted online.

  • Show younger students how long content stays online. For example, you could show students your high school newspaper articles, or you could use the Wayback Machine to show them old internet content and how it still remains online.
  • Ask older students to read through selected passages of privacy statements for accounts they frequently use (e.g., Instagram or Snapchat). Focus on the passages about who owns the posted content and how content can be deleted.

3. Discuss the concept of stranger danger in an online environment.

  • Have younger students watch the Internet Safety video from BrainPOP Jr.
  • Ask older students to map their digital relationships. Who do they engage with that they have met face-to-face and who do they engage with that they have only met online?

4. Create activities where students are reminded that another person sits on the other side of the computer.

  • Have younger students watch the Power of Words video. Then, engage in a discussion about how words make them feel.
  • Have older students engage in an activity online where they interact with classmates but do not know which classmates. Then have them write a reflection about who they think they were interacting with, why they think this, and how they possibly responded differently to an anonymous interaction online versus how they would respond to a known friend online.

5. Teach students about creating a positive digital footprint.

  • Engage in a class discussion about content older students may have posted online a few years ago and how they have changed since then. Ask students to reflect on whether the content they previously posted is something they would still post or not.
  • Tell stories about positive digital footprints and how individuals have leveraged online communities for the greater good and to create their own opportunities. If possible, bring in guest speakers to tell their own stories about positive digital. You can read more about positive digital footprints in Education Leadership.

6. Talk to students about ethical uses of information found online.

Good Digital Citizenship Starts Here

Provide everyday reminders about how to stay safe online and leave a positive digital footprint.

Ways for Educators to Engage in and Support Digital Citizenship

1. Be aware of accounts you have the students use and what data is kept by the companies.

  • Find out how companies use the data they collect. This means reading privacy notifications.
  • Communicate with your administration about district policies for student privacy.
  • Communicate with guardians about ways your school protects student privacy and promotes digital citizenship.
  • Provide resources to help guardians talk to their children about being safe online and engaging in appropriate technology use.

2. Participate in safe online practices.

  • Consider using a password manager to generate and store passwords.
  • Reflect on what you post on social media related to your students.
  • Be aware of what personal information you post online that your students (and others) may see.
  • Connect with other librarians, classroom teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and guardians. This work is bigger than what we can do alone.

When creating lessons on digital citizenship, remember that Digital Citizen is one of the standards on the ISTE Standards for Students and that Citizen is one of the standards on the ISTE Standards for Educators. For alignment purposes, you can see a crosswalk for the National School Library Standards and the ISTE Standards for Educators.


Dr. Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is the Instructional and Research Librarian at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, KS, where she teaches, leads information literacy initiatives and sits on the Faculty Development Committee. Currently, Dr. Hays is co-editing a book on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) for academic librarians. Her professional interests include teaching, SoTL, information literacy, educational technology, Library and Information Science education, teacher identity and faculty development. On a personal note, she is passionate about dogs, traveling and home.