The Art of Creating Digital Citizens

student-made poster describing digital citizenship

There’s no denying we are part of the digital world. Whether you choose to embrace technology in your classroom or not, the use of digital media has become a way of life. As adults, we’ve been immersed in the development of social media and technology gradually over a period of time. We’ve been able to grow as technology has grown and increased in our society. But this is not the case for our students, they are fully submerged.

Are we doing our part to teach our 21st-century learners the importance of respect and responsibility when it comes to technology? Being a 21st-century citizen requires collaboration and communication not just face to face, but through digital means. Are you preparing your students to face the digital world?

script that says "You will never regret being kind"

What is Digital Citizenship?

student-made poster describing digital citizenship

Anyone who interacts with an online community whether it be social or educational is a digital citizen. If you use the Internet, you are a digital citizen. Teaching digital citizenship encourages the respectful and responsible use of technology and social media. One of our duties as educators is to be aware of our students’ interactions and communications online while encouraging the responsibilities of an online citizen. When discussing digital citizenship keep these ideas in mind: digital etiquette, security, and responsibility.

Why is Teaching Digital Citizenship Important?

student-made poster describing what it means to be a good digital citizen

If you’re a secondary teacher, chances are you’ve photobombed a Snapchat or two. Social media is huge for our students. But often the concern is the number of “likes” or views something gets, rather than what it actually means. Kids are impulsive. They post and share without thinking of the consequences of their actions. I  tell my students if they’re sharing something they wouldn’t want their grandparents to see, it’s probably not worth posting. Each interaction online contributes to a digital footprint that will follow them as they apply to colleges and jobs in the future.

One of the most pressing issues of digital citizenship is cyberbullying, an issue worthy of discussion. Whether it happens during or outside of the school day, negative comments or posts will affect your students. More than 50% of teens have reported being cyberbullied. It happens every day and can come in the cruelest of forms witnessed by a plethora of peers in the digital community. According to research, a student who has been cyberbullied is twice as likely to attempt suicide. While these topics can be difficult, opening a dialogue for discussion with students is important.

How Can I Teach Digital Citizenship in the Art Room?

Digital citizenship can and should be taught at every grade level. Common Sense Media is a great resource that provides a K-12 digital citizenship curriculum. You can also start by creating art lessons that theme around this topic. In my art room, we do a project called “The Digital You.” Using Comic Life students create their own comic or poster advocating the practice of digital citizenship. We discuss some very basic visual design elements, but at the same time hit on a very heavy topic. Remember, even if you aren’t integrating technology in your classroom this is still a topic that should be shared in your art room. Use “The Digital You” handout below to start creating responsible digital citizens today!

Click for free download!
Click for free download!

Do you teach digital citizenship in your classroom?
In what ways do you teach difficult topics like cyberbullying?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Abby Schukei

Abby Schukei, a middle school art educator and AOEU’s Social Media Manager, is a former AOEU Writer. She focuses on creating meaningful experiences for her students through technology integration, innovation, and creativity.

More from Abby