Why We Need to Teach Digital Citizenship to Our Students

Digital Citizenship

Our students spend a lot of time on their devices. By age 11, 53% of children in the U.S. have a smartphone, and by age 16, 89% have one.1 Not only do most youth own a device, but they are on it a lot too! Since the pandemic, young people’s online time has skyrocketed, and it’s not slowing down. According to the nonprofit research organization Common Sense Media, teen (ages 13-18) and tween (ages 8-12), screen use increased by 17% from 2019 to 2021. Daily screen use among tweens is, on average, five hours and 33 minutes, and eight hours and 39 minutes for teens.2 That is more than half the time they spend daily in school!

Unfortunately, many of our students aren’t aware of how much power that little device they spend so much time on can have on their lives. Hence one of the many reasons Angie and I wrote the book Digital Citizenship: Supporting Youth Navigating Technology in a Rapidly Changing World. We heard from many educators nationwide who expressed a need for a practical and relevant resource that would support them in helping their students survive and thrive in an ever-evolving, digitally complex world.

When our students are online, they become citizens in a virtual world. A part of that citizenship involves interacting, engaging, and behaving in a meaningful manner. Unfortunately, we have all heard a story of someone who did or said something online that came back to haunt them. Each time our students are online, they create a digital footprint that is traceable and nearly impossible to delete. It doesn’t take much to expose oneself to the world, literally. Too many of our students are given a device with little guidance and instruction on using it responsibly.

In this book, we use transportation metaphors to illustrate how society’s online transformation has paved previously unimaginable roadways of knowledge, adventure, and inspiration…as well as dangerous detours, hidden potholes, and hairpin curves. We wouldn’t in a million years think about handing the keys to a 4,000-lb. vehicle to a toddler, elementary-school student, or pre-teen, but aren’t we giving them access to devices that can expose them to life-threatening perils like identity theft, pornography, predators, and bullying?

We must instill essential skills and knowledge into our students: alertness to danger, privacy and protection, sound decision-making, kindness and respect, and moderation. We must help our students hit the brakes before responding, drive cautiously, and follow the safety signs and rules. As digital citizens, each plays a vital role in their preparedness for navigating the ever-widening information superhighway.

Our book, Digital Citizenship: Supporting Youth Navigating Technology in a Rapidly Changing World, combines the latest facts and statistics, interactive learning activities, and real-life applications. We have provided you with tools to teach students how to make intelligent decisions, have meaningful interactions, and be aware and knowledgeable about what they do online. More importantly, we hope our book assists you in helping your students in becoming digital citizens in the 21st century: A person who is kind, productive, responsible, and, more importantly, leaves a digital footprint worthy of following!


  1. Rideout, V., and Robb, M. B. (2019). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2019. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.
  2. Rideout, V., Peebles, A., Mann, S., & Robb, M. B. (2022). Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2021. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense.

Written by Dr. Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, author of "15-Minute Focus: Digital Citizenship".

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