Developing a Whole-School Digital Citizenship Program

A couple of weeks ago Judy O’Connell shared this clever but confronting video showing how easy it is for anyone to access personal details that we share online.  It is such a good video that we have incorporated it into a Year 9 unit about using the internet in responsible and ethical ways.

I have been very interested in digital citizenship for a number of years now, ever since I heard Vicki Davis speak about it at an ISTE conference a few years ago.  Since then I have collected a lot of useful links and information for students, organised into the 9 categories originally proposed by Mike Ribble, creator of the term ‘digital citizenship.’  I have also presented at a couple of seminars on how to develop a digital citizenship program in your school.

Towards the end of last year I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar on cyber safety presented by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, leading Australian psychologist and avid proponent for the emotional well-being of children and teens. His presentation opened my eyes to the overall scope of activities that need to be implemented in schools.  Essentially, he said:

  • Cyber bullying is a problem in every school (as is traditional bullying).
  • In susceptible individuals, cyber bullying can lead to self-harm and suicide.
  • Parents are an essential link in helping to prevent this.
  • Schools have a duty of care to show visible evidence that they have educated parents and students about the potential problems and possible solutions.
  • Schools need to push information out to parents, via newsletters, emails and websites.
  • Schools need to have an active cyber citizenship program in place for students.
  • Schools need to involve students in the drafting of policies.
  • Families are now starting to sue schools/education departments in Australia as a result of persistent bullying (and win).
  • Schools need to show they have an overarching ethos – eg QSAFE Declaration, Kandersteg Declaration, National Safe Schools Framework and they need to be able to show regularly updated policies for dealing with cyber safety issues.

Matthew Jorgensen, eLearning Manager at Coomera Anglican College, is well on the way towards achieving these goals at his school. On his website,  The Cybersafety Net, he has organised resources into year level themes, and made these freely available for anyone to use. His blog also shows how the school has been regularly sending cybersafety information out to parents, and the initiatives they have been involved in to make students responsible and ethical internet users.

For all of us, it’s a challenging journey, but also an exciting opportunity to guide students towards digital leadership and harnessing the power of the internet for good.

Improve Your Digital Footprint

I came across this excellent SlideShare presentation this morning from a colleague at Mt Alvernia College Library, Brisbane. It was a link which came through in a Diigo teacher-librarian list, shared by Anne Weaver, another colleague here in Brisbane.

For a number of years now I have been very interested in teaching students to behave ethically and responsibly online, not only to limit and/or delete the inappropriate information they post/have posted online, but also to begin to create a positive online presence which they can confidently show to future employers. This year, across the school, we will be looking at what we already have in place and developing a structured and cohesive Digital Citizenship program.

I have put together on our Library website a collection of resources that I have found:  Digital Footprint and Change the World for Good. If you find other good examples of boys in particular who are using social media and an online presence to change the world for good, please let me know.

First Australian Sexting Prosecution

Sexting (sending nude photos via a mobile phone) is a problem which is occurring at an alarming rate and one which, unfortunately, will only get worse as children are given mobile phones at increasingly younger ages.  Children and teenagers either forget or don’t care that once a photo is out there, they have lost control of it and the consequences may haunt them far into their later lives.

Twenty year old Philip Albert is suffering for exactly that reason – in a moment of anger when he was 17 years old, he sent a naked photo of his 16 year old ex-girlfriend to over 70 people, including her teachers, parents and grandparents.

As a result, “Phillip was arrested for distribution of child pornography, put on five years probation, and required to register on the public sex offender list. He was kicked out of college, can’t find a job, and can’t live with his father because his dad lives too close to a high school. As a registered sex offender, Phillip isn’t allowed to live near a school, playground, or a church. Unless his lawyer is successful in getting to court to take him off the list, he could remain on the registered sex offender list until he’s in his 40s.”  (

The first Australian case of sexting prosecution was reported in The Sydney Morning Herald this morning.

‘DAMIEN ”EZZY” EADES is caught up in legal history but perhaps not in the way he would have liked. The 20-year-old from Sydney’s western suburbs is at the centre of Australia’s first ”sexting” case, after a schoolgirl sent a nude photo of herself to his mobile phone. The maximum penalty he faces is a two-year jail term.’

As educators, we really have a duty of care to make students aware of the potential consequences of their actions, and to teach them to behave responsibly and ethically online, otherwise a simple spur-of-the-moment decision may cost them years of grief.

(Video from ThinkUKnow – a partnership between the Australian Federal Police and Microsoft.  For an accompanying lesson plan, visit

See other resources on sexting at our BGS Libguide – Watchful, Wary and Wise: Be Smart Online)