Education Digital Citizenship
Marie Heath
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 November 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0264


Digital citizenship is a term meant to convey the possibility of a new or different type of citizenship which occurs as digital citizens participate within the constraints and opportunities of the internet. It refers to new possibilities of citizenship outside or beyond our physically bounded space and within cyberspace. Early usages of the term often referred to safety, character, and comportment in a digital space. However, the term now refers to new forms of participation or engagement in the global community. These new forms of participation require specific skills (including media literacy, collaboration, and digital ethics) and access (including access to technology and access to inclusive online spaces), as well as new pedagogies and practices from educators.

General Overviews

A summary of digital citizenship which emphasizes safety, character, and responsibility may be found in Ribble 2015. Lenhart, et al. 2011 uses the same lens and offers empirical research through survey data on American teens’ digital citizenship. Mossberger, et al. 2007 offers a more nuanced approach which considers the role of information literacy in digital citizenship. Bennett 2008 suggests that new media practices lead to a new type of participation for young people. Both Heath 2018 and Choi 2016 emphasize the role of engagement and social justice in digital citizenship. Choi 2016 also provides a complex characterization of digital citizenship that embraces technical skills, global awareness, and critical perspectives. Similarly, Isin and Ruppert 2015 explores the possibilities of citizenship in an internet mediated world. ISTE 2019 provides digital resources and standards for teaching digital citizenship in schools.

  • Bennett, W. L. 2008. Changing citizenship in the digital age. In Civic life online: Learning how digital media can engage youth. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Edited by W. Lance Bennett, 1–24. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    Chapter in larger anthology arguing that new digital media allow young people to participate and engage as citizens in novel ways. Useful for graduate students and scholars.

  • Choi, M. 2016. A concept analysis of digital citizenship for democratic citizenship education in the internet age. Theory & Research in Social Education 44.4: 565–607.

    Empirical study which reconceptualizes digital citizenship as a complex intersection of technical skills, local and global awareness, and critical perspectives which can lead to political activism. Provides new perspectives which may be useful to scholars and graduate students.

  • Heath, M. K. 2018. What kind of (digital) citizen? A between-studies analysis of research and teaching for democracy. The International Journal of Information and Learning Technology 35.5: 342–356.

    Overview of literature on digital citizenship. Compares different approaches and draws conclusions grounded in a framework of citizenship for justice. Useful for scholars and practitioners.

  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2019. Digital citizenship in education. In ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education.

    Digital resources and standards for digital citizenship in P-12 classrooms.

  • Isin, E., and E. Ruppert. 2015. Being digital citizens. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield International.

    Book reexamining what citizenship means within the constraints and opportunities of the internet. Useful for graduate students and scholars.

  • Lenhart, A., M. Madden, A. Smith, K. Purcell, K. Zickuhr, and L. Rainie. 2011. Teens, kindness and cruelty on social network sites: How American teens navigate the new world of digital citizenship. Pew Internet & American Life Project.

    Survey data and analysis on young people’s digital citizenship. Useful as a starting point for discussion on how young people navigate the digital world.

  • Mossberger, K., C. J. Tolbert, and R. S. McNeal. 2007. Digital citizenship: The Internet, society, and participation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

    An examination of the role of information literacy and participation in the role of digital citizenship. Frequently cited work that suggests an intersection of digital literacy and digital citizenship.

  • Ribble, M. 2015. Digital citizenship in schools: Nine elements all students should know. Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education.

    Often cited reference for character- and behavior-based digital citizenship. Schools frequently use the nine elements to develop digital citizenship curriculum. This perspective has been recently challenged due to its character-based approach to citizenship, rather than a participatory approach to citizenship.

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