Digital Citizenship

Legal contexts and digital identities: Digital Rights and Responsibilities.

by | Oct 25, 2015 | Articles |

Rise of civilization created the need for societal norms defined as citizenship to enable its functionality and existence. Consequently, to provide a required boundaries, rules and laws followed. With the rise of digital technology, the need for another set of norms was established. Digital citizenship was formed that users can apply to a value neutral technology acts of responsibility and no harm.

These sets of norms apply to everyone, however children and adolescents are a particularly vulnerable groups. Digital citizenship encompasses the way user approaches technology and makes informed choices about its use. Critical thinking about appropriate content, understanding how a particular action will affect others and what are the consequences of it, is necessary for every technology user.

Dilemma: What rights and responsibilities do students have in a digital society?

Rights and responsibility can be difficult to define and this would cover various aspects, however there is one prominent area that each educator and learner will face very often – ethical use of online material, i.e. an issue of plagiarism and copyrighting. Digital society is an open society that leaves a permanent footprint. Despite that, it does not mean that everything can be freely used and students need to develop awareness about it.

In fundamental principles of NZ Code of Ethics for Registered Teachers is stated that teachers have to provide “Responsible Care to do good and minimise harm to others.” It also states that teachers have commitment to learners: “Teachers nurture the capacities of all learners to think and act with developing independence, and strive to encourage an informed appreciation of the fundamental values of a democratic society.” and commitment to society “Teachers are vested by the public with trust and responsibility, together with an expectation that they will help prepare students for life in society in the broadest sense.”

When students create something they have right to protect their work or to share it freely. If they use online material for their own work they need to cite sources, request permissions and respect others privacy. This is as ethical issue as it is an issue of authenticity of own work submitted for assessment. Students may not have complete comprehension of these issues and they should be guided to build personal awareness.

Our school has a well-defined policy in place and every new entrant at Y9 goes through introduction on copyrights and plagiarism which is refreshed in Y 10 again. The same programme is part of regular PD for teachers new to school. The approach is to inform students and prevent plagiarism in the first place. Within few years the effects of this approach are noticeable at the senior levels and cases of plagiarism are not as common any more.

School librarians teach students how to search and cite resources in the yearly class sessions. Students learn how to search resources under Creative Commons, what is the meaning of it and when is acknowledgement of the author required.

Form Class time has been used to explain what is digital citizenship, and components of it, in a series of sessions. It had been very informative to see how much of awareness, and as well sometimes lack of it, was present in the class about various issues. Topic of plagiarism with given scenarios for discussion was one of the most debated, beside online privacy and identity theft issues. Those discussions brought to attention and made me convinced as an educator that digital citizenship is not something that will just happened automatically. It requires systematic approach of building awareness in students by making it relevant and contemporary if we want to nurture responsible digital citizens.


Giant, N. (2013, April 28). E-safety for the I-generation: Combating the Misuse and Abuse of Technology in Schools. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Ivester, M. (2011). Lol–Omg!: What Every Student Needs to Know about Online Reputation Management, Digital Citizenship, and Cyberbullying. Serra Knight Pub.

Ribble, M. (2011, September 21). Digital citizenship in schools. International Society for Technology in Education.

Ribble, M. S., Bailey, G. D., & Ross, T. W. (2004). Digital Citizenship: Addressing Appropriate Technology Behavior. Learning & Leading with Technology, 32(1), 6.



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