Digital Citizenship

Lesson time: 30 Minutes         Basic lesson time includes activity only. Introductory and Wrap-Up suggestions can be used to delve deeper when time allows.

Lesson Overview

In collaboration with Common Sense Media, this lesson helps students learn to think critically about the user information that some websites request or require. Students learn the difference between private information and personal information, distinguishing what is safe and unsafe to share online.

Students will also explore what it means to be responsible and respectful to their offline and online communities as a step toward learning how to be good digital citizens.

Teaching Summary

Getting Started - 15 minutes

1) Review 2) Vocabulary
3) Personal vs. Private Online

Activity: Digital Citizens - 30 minutes

4) Digital Citizens

Wrap-up - 10 minutes

5) Flash Chat - What did we learn? 6) Vocab Shmocab

Assessment - 5 minutes

7) Digital Citizens Assessment

Lesson Objectives

Students will:

  • Compare and contrast their responsibilities to their online and offline communities
  • Understand what type of information can put them at risk for identity theft and other scams
  • Reflect on the characteristics that make someone an upstanding citizen
  • Devise resolutions to digital dilemmas

Teaching Guide

Materials, Resources and Prep

For the Student

For the Teacher

Getting Started (15 min)

1) Review

This is a great time to review the last lesson that you went through with your class. We suggest you alternate between asking questions of the whole class and having students talk about their answers in small groups.

Here are some questions that you can ask in review:

  • What did we do last time?

  • What do you wish we had had a chance to do?

  • Did you think of any questions after the lesson that you want to ask?

  • What was your favorite part of the last lesson?

Lesson Tip

Finishing the review by asking about the students' favorite things helps to leave a positive impression of the previous exercise, increasing excitement for the activity that you are about to introduce.

2) Vocabulary

This lesson has one new and important word:

Digital Citizen - Say it with me: Dih-jih-tal Sit-i-zen
Someone who acts safely, responsibly, and respectfully online

3) Personal vs. Private Online

  • Ask "What types of information do you think are okay to share publicly online or on a profile that others will see?"
  • What are some examples of websites where you must register in order to participate?
    • Write the names of the websites on the board.
    • What information is required and why do you think it is required?
      • Information may be required to help distinguish one person from another.
      • The website may keep a record of who uses it.
    • Explain that it’s important to know that sharing some kinds of user information can put you and your family’s privacy at risk.
    • Point out that you do not have to fill out fields on websites if they are not required.
      • Required fields are usually marked by an asterisk (*) or are highlighted in red.
  • Elementary school students should never register for sites that require private information without the approval and guidance of a parent or guardian.
  • Here is an example of public versus private information:

Lesson Tip

If you have access to a computer, feel free to navigate to a site that might require this type of information, such as Gmail or Facebook.

  • Explain that some people will actively try to get you to share this kind of information so that they can use it to take over your identity. Once a thief has taken someone’s identity, he or she can use that person’s name to get a driver’s license or buy things, even if the person whose identity they stole isn’t old enough to do these things!
    • It’s often not until much later that people realize that their identity has been stolen. Identity thieves may also apply for credit cards in other people’s names and run up big bills that they don’t pay off. Let students know that identity thieves often target children and teens because they have a clean credit history and their parents are unlikely to be aware that someone is taking on their child’s identity.

Now, let's see what we can do to keep ourselves safe.

Activities: (20 min)

4) Papercraft Super Heroes

  • Spiderman says "With great power comes great responsibility." This is also true when working or playing on the Internet.
  • The things we read, see, and hear online can lead people to have all sorts of feelings (e.g., happy, hurt, excited, angry, curious).
    • What we do and say online can be powerful.
  • The Internet allows us to learn about anything, talk to people at any time (no matter where they are in the world), and share our knowledge and creative projects with other people.
    • This also means that negative comments can spread very quickly to friends of all ages.
  • CREATE a three-column chart with the terms “Safe,” “Responsible,” and “Respectful” written at the top of each column. Invite students to shout out words or phrases that describe how people can act safely, responsibly, and respectfully online, and then write them in the appropriate column.

Now, let's really make sure we understand how to be a Super Digital Citizen!


1) Have each student grab a small selection of papercraft sheets and encourage them to blend the pieces to make their very own super hero.

2) Allow plenty of time for students to cut, glue, and color.

3) Give students a 5 minute warning to wrap up.

4) Separate students into groups of 2-4 and tell them to use their super heroes and leftover supplies to stage a scene in which one superhero sees an act of poor digital citizenship. Then have the superhero fix the problem … and save the day!

5) Go around the room, having each student explain their scene to the class.

Lesson Tip

For more in-depth modules, you can find additions to this curriculum at the Common Sense Media page on Scope and Sequence.

Wrap-up (5 min)

5) Flash Chat: What did we learn?

  • What is a good way to act responsibly online?
  • What kinds of personal information could you share about yourself without showing your identity?
  • What kinds of superpowers or qualities did your digital superheroes have in common?
  • What does Spider-Man’s motto “With great power comes great responsibility” mean to you, as someone who uses the Internet?

Lesson Tip

Flash Chat questions are intended to spark big-picture thinking about how the lesson relates to the greater world and the students' greater future. Use your knowledge of your classroom to decide if you want to discuss these as a class, in groups, or with an elbow partner.

6) Vocab Shmocab

  • Which one of these definitions did we learn a word for today?

"One who is afraid of spiders"
"A baby horse"
"Someone who acts safely, responsibly, and respectfully online"

...and what is the word that we learned?

Assessment (5 min)

7) Digital Citizen Assessment

  • Hand out the assessment worksheet and allow students to complete the activity independently after the instructions have been well explained.
  • This should feel familiar, thanks to the previous activities.

Extended Learning

Use these activities to enhance student learning. They can be used as outside of class activities or other enrichment.

Common Sense Media

  • Visit Common Sense Media to learn more about how you can keep your students safe in this digital age.

Connections and Background Information

ISTE Standards (formerly NETS)

  • 1.c - Use models and simulation to explore complex systems and issues.
  • 2.d - Contribute to project teams to solve problems.
  • 5.a - Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
  • 5.b - Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
  • 5.d. - Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.
  • 6.a - Understand and use technology systems.

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards

  • CI.L1:3-01. Practice responsible digital citizenship (legal and ethical behaviors) in the use of technology systems and software.
  • CI.L1:6-01. Discuss basic issues related to responsible use of technology and information, and the consequences of inappropriate use.
  • CI.L1:6-02. Identify the impact of technology (e.g. social networking, cyber bullying, mobile computing and communication, web technologies, cyber security, and virtualization) on personal life and society.
  • CI.L1:6-04. Understand ethical issues that relate to computers and networks (e.g., equity of access, security, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property).
  • CI.L2-01. Exhibit legal and ethical behaviors when using information and technology and discuss the consequences of misuse.
  • CI.L2-05. Describe ethical issues that relate to computers and networks (e.g., security, privacy, ownership, and information sharing).
  • CPP.L2-06. Demonstrate good practices in personal information security: using passwords, encryption, secure transactions.

Common Core Language Arts

  • SL.3.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • SL.3.3 - Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
  • L.3.6 - Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships.
  • SL.4.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • L.4.6 - Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being and that are basic to a particular topic.
  • SL.5.1 - Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • L.5.6 - Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal contrast, addition, and other logical relationships.