Digital Citizenship 101

Digital Citizenship 101. 

What you put on the internet stays there forever

Don’t post anything you don’t want your grandmother to see

How many times have we bought into these pieces of logic and make it an integral part of getting students connected and being online responsibly?  Do you believe it is good advice?  Should it apply to everyone?

Apparently not.

I had this happen over the weekend but I’ll bet it doesn’t take long to find it among your Twitter friends. 

I had a long time friend reach out and become a Twitter contact with me.  The first thing I did was check out his profile to make sure that this was just who I thought it was.  It was … and in the profile was the statement that’s all too familiar “My tweets do not reflect the opinions of my employer.”

So, I asked him what that meant.   We’re now friends so this could be done via direct message.

“It allows me to say and share things that might get me fired if my boss found out.”


For a student, would a disclaimer translate to “It allows me to say and share things that my grandmother wouldn’t like.”

Pushing the envelope, I asked “If we were walking through a crowded shopping mall, would you start a conversation with me with that disclaimer?”  It could be the same message or joke that you’d put online.  There are lots of people around us who might hear it.  One might be, in fact, your boss or someone you work with.

“Well, you know what I mean”

I think we all do, and it’s kind of been accepted in many circles.

I recall an incident when my high school was playing the Catholic school rival and a fight broke out in the stands.  The next day, one of my students was called to the office and was suspended from school as a result.  When he returned to my classroom to get his books, I still remember his comment. 

“This sucks.  How can he suspend me?  This wasn’t on school property.”

“He said something about representing the school or something.  My parents will get me a lawyer.”

Well, that never happened and the seat was empty for three days.

Would a disclaimer have helped?

“It allows me to go to the arena and get into a fight and the school can’t do anything about it.”

Are we too quick to see a difference between being a citizen and a digital citizen? 

Is there a difference? 

Shouldn’t the same advice given to students apply universally?

Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is created by me at the keyboard or as a result of an aggregator of my daily reading under the title OTR Links. On Fridays, look for my signature post "This Week in Ontario Edublogs" where I try to share some great writing from Ontario Educators. The other regular post appears Sunday mornings as I try to start a conversation about things that have gone missing from our daily lives.

6 thoughts on “Digital Citizenship 101

  1. Doug, your post made me think of Danah Boyd’s book, IT’S COMPLICATED. In the past, I’ve heard people make comments aloud that would get them in trouble if they were written down and posted online. Is it right that these comments are ignored on one hand and punished on the other? When examples are shared of problems on social media, and people exclaim, “That’s why I don’t have [or use] _____________,” is that right? Should we be learning not to use these tools, or how to use them well/responsibly? I would love to get to the point where “digital citizenship” is just seen as “citizenship,” but what needs to change for that to happen?



  2. Thank you for your comment, Aviva. I can say that the Aviva that I know online is the same Aviva that I meet annually at the ECOO Conference. I think that the change will happen when leaders like you demonstrate that you can be the same person regardless of the setting. Sadly, some people feel a need to shout louder or have a shock factor online in order to feel that they’re being noticed. That’s just sad.


  3. I’ve used that sort of disclaimer to indicate that I was not speaking as a statement of company policy. I never thought it would keep me from getting fired. I can’t see how it could. I also knew (learned the hard way) that comments I made would be associated with the company I worked for no matter how strongly I stated they were independent thoughts. I was careful but still got into “trouble” once or twice.
    I always understand that what I write may be read by more managment, people who didn’t like the company I worked for, or (really scary) my wife. 🙂


  4. interesting…I feel, very strongly, that we need to avoid differentiating between digital citizenship and citizenship. Citizenship needs to encompass all areas where we are citizens, including the digital realm. However, I think that Aviva’s probably right, that we need to continue to model and teach the skills that are necessary to be good citizens in the digital world.


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