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Digital Citizenship
Addressing Appropriate Technology Behavior

By Mike S. Ribble,
Gerald D. Bailey,
and Tweed W. Ross
Subject: Appropriate technology use

Grades: K–12 (Ages 5–18)

Standards: NETS•S 2; NETS•T VI;

NETS•A VI (http://www.iste.org/

Supplement: http://www.iste.org/LL/

6 Learning & Leading with Technology Volume 32 Number 1

Copyright © 2004, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

ecently, the popular press A Definition of Digital Citizenship ty to “catch up” with all of their uses.
has pointed to increasing Digital citizenship can be defined as Some rules or policies are assumed,
evidence of misuse and abuse the norms of behavior with regard while others have been created by an
of emerging technologies in U.S. to technology use. As a way of un- individual user or group. According
schools. Some examples include using derstanding the complexity of digital to a 2003 Cingular Wireless survey
Web sites to intimidate or threaten citizenship and the issues of technol- of users and mobile phone etiquette,
students, downloading music ille- ogy use, abuse, and misuse, we have 42% in the South Atlantic region of
gally from the Internet, plagiarizing identified nine general areas of behav- the United States said they would
information using the Internet, using ior that make up digital citizenship. answer a ringing phone while having
cellular phones during class time, and a face-to-face conversation. (Editor’s
1. Etiquette: electronic standards of
playing games on laptops or hand- note: Find this and other resources
conduct or procedure
helds during class. How can mentioned in this article on p. 11.
2. Communication: electronic ex-
we address these issues? The online supplement contains fur-
change of information
ISTE’s National Educational ther resources on the issues addressed
3. Education: the process of teaching
Technology Standards (NETS) give here.) When students see adults using
and learning about technology and
us a starting point. The standards for technologies inappropriately, they can
the use of technology
students, teachers, and administrators assume it is the norm. This leads to
4. Access: full electronic participation
all address social and ethical issues. inappropriate technology behavior on
in society
For example, NETS for Students 2: the part of students.
5. Commerce: electronic buying and
Social, Ethical, and Human Issues,
selling of goods Inappropriate Etiquette
covers three very broad areas:
6. Responsibility: electronic responsi- • Students use handhelds or instant
1. Students understand the ethical, bility for actions and deeds messaging (IM) to send non-
cultural, and societal issues related 7. Rights: those freedoms extended to class-related messages back and
to technology. everyone in a digital world forth in class.
2. Students practice responsible use of 8. Safety: physical well-being in a
technology systems, information, digital technology world
• Follow rules and policies established
and software. 9. Security (self-protection): electronic
by the school or district for appro-
3. Students develop positive attitudes precautions to guarantee safety
priate technology use.
toward technology applications
Digital citizenship speaks to several • Use case studies or scenarios (such
that support lifelong learning, col-
levels of responsibility for technology. as those included in the paper
laboration, personal pursuits, and
Some issues may be of more concern “Steal This Test!” posted on our
to technology leaders while others Digital Citizenship site) to illustrate
All three of these areas are very im- may be of more concern to teachers. appropriate and inappropriate ways
portant and help form students’ Topics within digital citizenship are of using technology.
technological development. wide and varied, so you will need • Model appropriate uses of technol-
However, ISTE created these to use these topics as a “buffet” and ogy in and out of the classroom.
standards to guide in-school behavior. take what you need, realizing that the
Communication. Cell phones, IM,
With increasing reports of student other themes are there.
and e-mail have changed the way
misuses of technology, student behav-
technology users communicate. These
ior in and out of school has become Examples and Strategies
forms of communication have created
an issue for educators. They must Etiquette. Digital behavior makes ev-
a new social structure of who, how,
prepare students to be members of a eryone a role model for students. The
and when people interact.
digital society or digital citizens. In problem with teaching digital tech-
this article, we discuss nine areas of nology is not all the rules have been Inappropriate Communication
digital citizenship and provide strate- written about uses for these devices. • Students use cellular phones as the
gies for teachers to employ and teach As new technologies have proliferat- new “digital clique” to exclude oth-
appropriate behavior. Next month, ed, users have not had the opportuni- er students, for example, excluding
we provide questions and answers
to help technology coordinators When students see adults using technologies inappropriately,
and administrators implement they can assume it is the norm. This leads to inappropriate
digital citizenship. technology behavior on the part of students.

September 2004 Learning & Leading with Technology 7

Copyright © 2004, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.

Educators need to encourage students to use technology • Identify students who have special
in a responsible way to prevent various physical injuries. needs or circumstances and ex-
plore ways to accommodate their
certain students from their cellular gies (e.g., IM or online discussion technology needs (e.g., assistive
phone books. boards). technology). SERI’s Special Needs
• Students use IM and e-mail short- • Provide learning opportunities in and Technology Resources page can
hand in class assignments. Using different technology modes (e.g., help you identify technology tools.
poor grammar and inappropriate Web sites, chat rooms, course man- • Advocate the creation of Web sites
slang or abbreviations can lead to agement systems). that enable everyone to have equal
bad habits in formal writing. • Teach information literacy (e.g., access both in language and structure.
identifying, accessing, applying, • Advocate for technology access for
and creating information) by using all students irrespective of disabili-
• Model good use of electronic com-
technology-infused projects. ties. For example, either adhere to
munication (e.g., sending messages
that are to the point, avoiding short- Access. Technology provides many the World Wide Web Consortium’s
hand when it is not appropriate). opportunities for large numbers of guidelines for Web site creation or
• Encourage students to use digital people to access and use alternative ask that those in your school or dis-
communication, but correct them forms of communication. But not ev- trict who create Web pages adhere
when they are doing something eryone has the ability to use or access to these guidelines.
inappropriate. the tools in the new digital society. • Provide time for students to use
• Use e-mail in situations where short Often these opportunities are only school technology to work on
responses are most appropriate. available to a small group of students, assignments.
• Use cell phones for learning pur- even though the price of technol- • Allow students to work together on
poses (e.g., accessing information in ogy is rapidly dropping and access assignments (i.e., pair students with
real time). to technology is greater than ever no or limited access to technology
before. The disparity of who does and with others who have significantly
Education. Technology-infused does not have access to technology in greater access).
teaching is becoming more common- America is widening. A 2003 report
place every year. Technology in the by the U.S. Department of Educa- Commerce. Online purchasing is
classroom is becoming as transparent tion showed that only 41% percent rapidly becoming the norm, and
as the chalkboard and pencil. How- of Blacks and Hispanics were using a students need to understand this pro-
ever, teaching how to use this tech- computer in the home compared to cess. According to the E-Commerce
nology has not grown accordingly. 77% percent of Whites. Times report “There’s Money in Teen
Technology-infused teaching does Web Surfers,” 29% of teens research
not always include teaching about Inappropriate Access products on the Internet before pur-
appropriate and inappropriate uses • Schools ignore or overlook the digi-
chasing them in stores. If our goal
of technology. tal needs of disenfranchised groups.
is to produce literate citizens, then
• School districts do not provide
Inappropriate Education a discussion of digital commerce is
specialized technologies for special
• Students use cell phones or hand- populations (e.g., unavailable be- important.
helds to get test/quiz answers from cause of “lack of funds”). Inappropriate Commerce
other students. • Teachers fail to accommodate stu- • Students purchase goods online
• Teachers do not teach students dents who do not have access. without knowledge of how to pro-
how technology can be used to find • Teachers “shy away” from assign- tect their identity (identity theft).
credible resources and materials. ments that require technology for • Students fail to realize the conse-
Strategies fear that students do not have access. quences of poor online purchasing
• Create activities and exercises that Strategies practices (e.g., impulse buying).
allow students to use PDAs to re- • Explore Web sites and materials Although poor purchasing practices
trieve, store, and share information to learn more about accessibility are common to face-to-face and
in a responsible fashion. issues. The World Wide Web Con- electronic exchanges, students are at
• Encourage students to come up sortium, SNOW, and the Special greater risk online because of ease
with new and alternative uses for Needs and Technology page are of access, unscrupulous sellers, and
the Internet and digital technolo- good places to start. targeted maketing.

8 Learning & Leading with Technology Volume 32 Number 1

Copyright © 2004, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.
Strategies cost for the breaking those rules/ Inappropriate Safety
• Engage students in a dialogue about laws. • Teachers are unaware of possible
using technology to purchase goods • Begin discussion on student percep- negative physical effects of technol-
and services. tions of ethical/unethical technol- ogy on students.
• Engage students in a discussion ogy use. • Teachers do not teach ergonomics
about good and bad experiences of • Discuss fair use and copyright laws. when using technology.
purchasing goods online. Strategies
Rights. When creating or publish-
• Ask students to read comparison ing anything digitally, students have • Explore Web sites (e.g., UCLA’s
shopping Web sites such as CNET the same copyright protection as any ergonomics site) to learn new ways
or AddALL to analyze comparative other content creators. for using technology safely.
shopping strategies. • Make sure that rooms are well lit,
• Teach students about the dangers Inappropriate Rights
and provide appropriately sized
of identity theft and how to protect • Schools do not protect the rights of
furniture for the technology use.
themselves. users working with school technology.
• Make students aware of the long-
• Students violate school acceptable
Responsibility. At an early age, stu- term physical effects of certain
use policies (AUPs) because they
dents found it easy to locate and technology use.
view them as unfair.
download material from the Internet. Security. As more and more sensitive
However, they have not learned what Strategies
information is stored electronically,
is appropriate or inappropriate, legal • Teach faculty about student digital
a corresponding strategy to protect
or illegal when using the Internet. For rights.
that information must be created.
example, a 2003 Business Software • Teach students about their digital
Students need to learn how to protect
Alliance report indicated that two- rights.
electronic data (e.g., virus protection,
thirds of college faculty and adminis- • Engage the school community in
firewalls, off-site storage). Protecting
trators say it is wrong to download or discussion of why school and dis-
one’s equipment is not only a mat-
swap files while fewer than one-quar- trict policies regarding technology
ter of personal responsibility but also
ter of students at the same colleges exist.
necessary for protecting the commu-
say it is wrong. Recently, the Record- • Provide students with information
nity (e.g., keeping one’s virus software
ing Industry Association of America about appropriate and inappropri-
up to date). However, digital security
(RIAA) filed suit against students and ate use of technology in school.
goes beyond protecting equipment.
others for downloading music ille- • Engage students about the differences
It includes protecting ourselves and
gally. This action has caused technol- between rights in school and outside
others from outside influences that
ogy users to think twice about what is school when using technology.
would do us physical harm.
appropriate and legal. Safety. Students need to be aware
Inappropriate Security
Inappropriate Responsibility of the physical dangers that are in-
• Students and educators assume
• Students download illegal MP3 herent in using technology. Carpal
there is no need to protect electron-
music from sites. tunnel syndrome is one (though not
ic data.
• Students copy material off the the only) such danger. Eyestrain and
• Students and faculty fail to main-
Internet for class projects without poor posture are not uncommon in
tain current software updates or
giving credit to the author. technology-related activities. Educa-
patches on their home computers
tors need to encourage students to
Strategies that protect us from viruses
use technology in a responsible way
• Use materials from Junior Achieve- • Students do not protect their identi-
to prevent various physical injuries.
ment to illustrate the cost of illegal ties while using e-mail, chat, or IM.
Having proper ergonomics can help
downloading from the Internet. protect students from long-lasting Strategies
• Open a dialogue on students’ feel- problems related to unsafe use of • Contact organizations (e.g., i-SAFE
ings regarding their material being technology. America) to obtain materials about
downloaded without permission.
• Discuss with students the school’s
codes of conduct as well as specific Protecting one’s equipment is not only a matter of
laws as they relate to illegal use of personal responsibility but also necessary for protecting
technology and the consequence/ the community.

September 2004 Learning & Leading with Technology 9

Copyright © 2004, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.
protecting online users. how to act with respect to technology. U.S. Department of Education, National
• Research what your school does to Laws will be enacted, but they will Center for Education Statistics. (2003).
Computer and Internet use by children and
provide protection from possible not be enough. Groups and organiza- adolescents in 2001. Available: http://
outside digital harm. tions (including schools) have created nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?
• Teach students to back up data and rules and AUPs, but they, too, fall pubid=2004014
protect their equipment from damage. short. There has been no universal Web Sites
• Teach students how to conduct agreement on how we should act in AddALL: http://www.adall.com
regular checks for viruses or other relation to digital technologies. Will CNET.com: http://www.cnet.com
software intrusions using approved reaching an agreement be easy? Quite i-SAFE America: http://www.i-safe.org
Junior Achievement’s Digital Citizenship
software. The National Cyber Se- the opposite; it will be very difficult
materials: http://www.ja.org/programs/
curity Alliance stated that 67% of to come to a consensus on how ev- programs_supplements_citizenship.shtml
broadband users don’t have proper- eryone will deal with digital technol- Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey’s Digital
ly installed and securely configured ogy. We must begin somewhere, and Citizenship Site: http://coe.ksu.edu/
firewalls. because the schools encompass our digitalcitizenship/
SERI’s Special Needs and Technology Re-
future, this is where the discussion
sources: http://www.seriweb.com/tech.htm
Conclusion begins. In his 1975 book Fifty-Four SNOW: http://snow.utoronto.ca/technology/
Digital citizenship has become a Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the products/
priority for schools that see technol- Supreme Court of the United States, Special Needs and Technology: http://
ogy integration as a major teaching U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thur- www.educationnews.org/special_needs_
and learning strategy for preparing good Marshall helps place the impor-
UCLA Ergonomics: http://
students to live and work in the 21st tance and urgency of teaching digital ergonomics.ucla.edu/
century. Using the NETS to help citizenship in proper perspective: World Wide Web Consortium: http://
understand how technology should www.w3.org
Education is not the teaching
be used in the curriculum and apply-
of the three R’s. Education is Mike S. Ribble serves as the
ing digital citizenship to help define
the teaching of the overall citi- instructional services coordina-
students’ behavior will facilitate
zenship, to learn to live together tor for the College of Education
the development of well-rounded, at Kansas State University. He
with fellow citizens, and above
technology-savvy students. has worked as a network man-
all to learn to obey the law. ager at Northeast Community
As the years pass and new digital
College in Norfolk, Nebraska.
technologies appear, a framework of
Resources He was an assistant principal and before that a
codified principles will be harder to Reports science teacher at Bishop Carroll High School in
create. Society will need guidance on Business Software Alliance. (2003). Internet Wichita, Kansas.
piracy on campus. Available: http://www.
Dr. Gerald D. Bailey is a pro-
Let us know eturnURL=/resources/loader.cfm?url=/
fessor of educational leadership
in the College of Education at
what you D=2396&CFID=88560&CFTOKEN=8
Kansas State University. His
areas of specialty are technology

THINK! Cingular Wireless. (2003). Cingular Wireless

survey reveals regional differences in courte-
ous use of cell phones. Available: http://
leadership and staff develop-
ment. Prior to earning his doc-
torate at the University of Nebraska, he worked
as a classroom teacher, demonstration teacher,
L&L accepts and supervisor in the Lincoln (Nebraska) Public
and prints Enos, L. (2003). Report: There’s
letters to money in teen Web surfers. Dr. Tweed W. Ross is an as-
the editor. E-Commerce Times. Available: http:// sociate professor of educational
Send your responses www.ecommercetimes.com/perl/story/ technology in the Department
to articles by e-mail 12095.html. of Educational Administration
to letters@iste.org or National Cyber Security Alliance. (2003). and Leadership and director
by regular mail to: Fast and present danger: In-home of the Catalyst Center at the
study on broadband security among College of Education Kansas
Kate Conley, L&L Editor American consumers. Available: http:// State University. His research interests include
ISTE, Publishing Dept. www.staysafeonline.info/press/060403.pdf the ethical issues of information technology and
480 Charnelton Street Ribble, M. S., & Bailey, G. D. (n.d.). Steal the preparation of undergraduate preservice edu-
this test! Available: http://coe.k-state.edu/ cators to use information technologies in K–12
Eugene, OR 97401-2626 USA
digitalcitizenship/CompassArt.pdf. classrooms.

September 2004 Learning & Leading with Technology 11

Copyright © 2004, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.
Online Supplement
This is a supplement to "Digital Citizenship" by Mike Ribble et. al.

Further Resources
General Education Responsibility
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M. S. (1997). Computers, ethics, and society. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/ Wired. Available: http://www.wired.com/
(2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University nottinghamshire/2933894.stm. news/digiwood/0,1412,59654,00.html.
Press. Guernsey, L. (2003, July 24). In the lecture Harmon, A. (2003, September 1).
Lessig, L. (1999). Code: And other laws of hall, a geek chorus. New York Times. Avail- Digital vandalism spurs a call for
cyberspace. New York: Basic Books. able: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/ oversight. New York Times. Available:
McCain, T. D. E., & Jukes, I. (2001). Win- 24/technology/circuits/24mess.html?ex= http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/01/
dows on the future: education in the age of 1063339200&en=cb2ce8fa99f86fe0&ei technology/01NET.html?ex=1063339200
technology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin =5070. &en=6c9adcbdd0cb5f11&ei=5070.
Press. Guernsey, L. (2003, August 14). A young Harmon, A. (2003, September 10). New
Rights and Responsibilities of Comput- writers’ round table, via the Web. New York parent-to-child chat: Do you down-
ing Users. (1993). Available: http: Times. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/ load music? New York Times. Available:
//www.virtualschool.edu/mon/Academia/ 2003/08/14/technology/circuits/14peer.ht http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/10/
RightsComputerUsers.html. ml?ex=1063339200&en=d04e36ad35b84 technology/10MUSI.html?th.
7c6&ei=5070. Rimer, S. (2003, September 3). A campus
Etiquette Mackenzie, H. (2003). Stay home, high- fad that’s being copied: Internet plagia-
Batista, E. (2003). New privacy men- land laddie. Wired. Available: http: rism. New York Times. Available: http://
ace: Cell phones? Wired. Available: //www.wired.com/news/culture/ www.nytimes.com/2003/09/03/education/
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0,1367,57692,00.html. Toppo, G. (2003, August 11). Who’s watch-
Jackson, M. (2003, March 2). Turn off that ing the class? Webcams in schools raise Safety
cellphone. It’s meeting time. New York privacy issue. USA Today. Available: http:// Manjoo, F. (2003). Carpal study
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.html?ex=1063339200&en=3c1c4fad2b3 0,1283,44400,00.html
a67ba&ei=5070. (Editor’s note: You must Access
register at the New York Times Web site to Dean, K. (2003). Gesture your mouse away. Security
access these articles. Registration is free.) Wired. Available: http://www.wired.com/ Foderaro, L. W. (2003, Sept. 5). Man
news/gizmos/0,1452,58978,00.html. charged with raping girl he met on Inter-
Communication Hafner, K. (2003, April 17). Eluding the net. New York Times. Available: http://
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Meeting the special needs of all students (4th www.playitcybersafe.com/
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Greenspan, R. (2003). More spending more.
Available: http://cyberatlas.internet.com/

Learning & Leading with Technology Volume 32 Number 1

Copyright © 2004, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), 1.800.336.5191 (U.S. & Canada) or 1.541.302.3777 (Int’l), iste@iste.org, www.iste.org. All rights reserved.