Digital Citizenship Is As Important As Potty Training: Let’s Start Cyber Civics Classes In All Schools

As part of our holiday series “One Change I’d Like to See in 2015” Sue Scheff challenges us to make Digital Citizenship a priority in schools. — DrGreene Team

We live in a digital age where this is a fact: Your virtual resume determines your future. Studies indicate that a student’s GPA may not be good enough for college recruiters if their social media behavior is out of line. A Career Builders survey shows that 51% of employers did not hire an applicant due to negative social media behavior and online content.

Since cyber-life is imperative to a child’s future, isn’t it about time to demand that schools implement Cyber Civics classes?

Back in my day we took Home Economics and Woodshop classes because these were important life skills. Digital Citizenship is the Home Economics of this generation.

Let’s consider the curriculum:

  1. Online Safety: Offline education keeps kids safe online. Teaching students about safe websites, phishing, chat room etiquette, why social media networks have age restrictions, strong passwords, and more, gives them an understanding of why things can be risky or dangerous online. Rather than telling kids they’re “not allowed” (because when has that ever worked?), let’s teach them how to make safe choices, like clicking-out when they feel uncomfortable.
  2. Email Netiquette: Knowing how to email appropriately can mean landing a job or possibly a college acceptance. Unfortunately many kids get lazy with texting slang and when they have to write a professional email for a cover letter they’re lost. Let’s teach them the proper etiquette.
  3. Online Reputation: Learning how to use cyberspace advantageously by building a positive virtual image through blogs, websites, and social networks is an essential skill. If young people don’t craft their own virtual resume, someone else will do it for them! We must teach students the art of maintaining a digital persona they can be proud of.
  4. Online Cruelty/ Crimes/Cyberbullying: Students need to know what steps to take if they become a victim of online abuse, whether from online predator or a cyberbully. They also need prevention skills, and they need to know where/who to go to for help without fear of being ostracized. Studies show that many teens don’t tell they are being harmed online because they fear the consequences. We must turn this around.
  5. Digital Citizenship: Every student should get the chance to become a cyber-savvy, upstanding digital citizen. Let’s teach them the simple facts about digital life: Think before you post or publish photos. They will impact your future. Once you click ‘send’ they can become public and permanent… while this might seem cliché, kids aren’t getting these lessons! Digital Citizenship skills help students pause and consider each keystroke, preventing possible damage to their digital footprints.

All of the Cyber Civics lessons above make a huge difference in how kids conduct themselves online, yet nothing replaces good old-fashioned parenting.

It does take a village to raise a child. Now more than ever, parents, schools, and communities must join together in educating our youth for the future. A future that will be determined by their digital footprint.

In California, some schools have already implemented Cyber Civics classes. Diana Graber, co-founder of Cyberwise, developed and started teaching these middle school classes five years ago. Her hopes are that they will not only spread through California, but throughout the country!

I hope so too!


Published on: December 26, 2014
About the Author
Photo of Sue Scheff

In her book, Wit's End! Advice and Resources for Saving Your Out-of-Control Teen, Sue Scheff journals her own difficulties with her teen, as well as offers prescriptive advice for parents at their wit's end. Visit Sue at and for more great information.

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