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Home Blogs Tools for Digital Citizenship New Year Resolve: To Practice Good Digital Citizenship

New Year Resolve: To Practice Good Digital Citizenship

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Written by lruberg45!
19 Dec 2008
Most of us have digital, mobile devices that we carry with us everywhere we go.  Our cell phones and computers are with us at work, at home, on vacation, and are perhaps even on our nightstand—just in case.  We have a common understanding regarding print and video media, but we need a common ground for the larger domain regarding what is ethical and legal in the world of digital communications.

Many of us may think this issue is not relevant to us.  We aren’t downloading illegal music or videos.  We site references for websites as sources for materials we refer to in presentations and reports.  Maybe we even go so far as to be careful to give citations routinely in our blogs and wikis.  Isn’t that enough to be considered a “good digital citizen?” Probably not, and below are some reasons why.

You may not be aware that if you are using a service like, you are breaking the Federal anti-hacking law.  It’s not uncommon for frequent web users to use random email addresses as a way to get through websites quickly.  These types of shortcuts allow accessing file downloads without having to provide one’s real email address and are a way to avoid getting future spam.  However, this practice is technically not legal.  Use of an invalid email address violates the terms of service that are standard on most websites.  

The most horrific example of someone breaking this code of conduct is the MySpace suicide case.  The defendant created a fake MySpace account to harass a young girl who later committed suicide.  In this case, the anti-hacking law was the most expeditious way for U.S. prosecutors to indict the parent harasser.  However, this same law makes millions of Internet users who use false email addresses for efficiency reasons violators of common website user agreements and Federal law.

So, who defines good digital citizenship?  Since the Internet is a global enterprise, digital citizenship goes beyond national boundaries.  However, there are many examples beyond the MySpace case where governments step in to regulate their citizens’ access and usage of Internet resources.  For example, “Internet censorship in the\"A People\'s Republic of China is conducted under a wide variety of laws and administrative regulations…more than sixty Internet regulations have been made by the People\'s Republic of China government, and censorship systems are vigorously implemented by provincial branches of state-owned ISPs, business companies, and organizations.\"

On a more local level all employers have the ability and tools to monitor employee use of websites.  In a recent InformationWeek survey:  
.    73% of the businesses surveyed reported that they monitored employee website usage to reduce the use of inappropriate web sites and content
.    52% to reduce unauthorized attempts to access sensitive data
.    48% to optimize traffic on networks and servers
.    45% to detect potential leakage of sensitive data
.    44% to improve employee productivity
Which raises some issues about how employers handle this information and what responsibilities each employee has to self-regulate their digital behavior.

State and local governments and business leaders are looking at collaborative Web technologies with mixed perspectives.  Employers are concerned about the blurred line between work and pleasure with increased worker use of multiple applications open on their desktops including chat windows, Facebook pages, video screens, etc.  On the one hand, employers worry about productivity. On the other hand, they realize that they must revisit the rule about social collaborative usage during work hours in order to attract young talent.

What guidelines are available for governments, businesses, schools, parents, and individuals to use as they establish usage policies and strategies for teaching good digital behavior and practices?
.    The U.S. government has a Federal Agency Digitization Guidelines Initiative that is overseen by an advisory board of experts to assist in establishing guidelines to foster relationships within the corporate and academic communities for moving government information archives to digital format.
.    One example from the state level comes from California, which recently introduced an information and communications technologies digital literacy measure that would create a CA Information and Communications Technologies Digital Literacy Leadership Council.  This council would promote digital literacy within CA to help the state become more competitive in the global economy.  This proposal is pending in the state legislature.
.    For educators the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) recently updated its language and scope for the standard addressing social, ethical, legal, and human issues related to digital citizenship.  The new National Educational Technology Standard for Digital Citizenship for:
o    TEACHERS: Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility. (Link to NETS-Teacher Standards)
o    STUDENTS: Understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.  (Link to NETS-Student Standards)

Where do we go for creditable and useful information about and examples of exemplary digital citizenship practices?
.    International Society for Technology in Education -
.    ePALS –
.    Global Schoolnet –
.    International Education and Resource Network –
.    Students Helping Students –
.    Taking IT Global –
.    The New Heroes on PBS –

This is great issue for education technology developers and educator users of technology to discuss.  We at the EdTech Collaborative want others to share their views about this issue.  As educators in a democracy we want to have an impact on policy-making, policy enforcement, and individual behavior.  We don’t want to leave it to the government or businesses to set these policies for us.  We invite you to post your views here regarding:
.    Who regulates digital usage and practices at your school and in your school district?
.    How should we regulate our own digital behavior, that of our family, our students, and our peers?

Last update (06 Aug 2009)


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Example of a District Policy Guides Available on the Web for Review
Written by: lruberg45! On: 23 Dec 2008

Here is an example of a school district policy regarding digital citizenship guidelines.  These guidelines were created and approved by the Tacoma, Washington School Board in 2002.  They are quite thorough and readable.  You can download this example at:

We hope you'll share other examples with us.

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