The Definition Of Digital Citizenship

The Definition Of Digital Citizenship

by Terry Heick

This post was originally published in 2013 and was updated in December of 2018

As more and more students interact digitally–with content, one another, and various communities–the concept of digital citizenship becomes increasingly important.

Which begs the question: what is digital citizenship?

Well, first citizenship, which is formally defined as “the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community.” This makes citizenship far more complex than a simple legal matter, but rather one that consists of self-knowledge, interaction, and intimate knowledge of a place, its people, and its cultural history.

So digital citizenship is nearly the same thing–“the quality of a response to membership in a digital community” would be a good first crack at the definition.

Revising that might more clearly articulate the differences between physical and digital communities, so a decent definition of digital citizenship then might be “Self-monitored participation that reflects conscious interdependence with all (visible and less visible) community members”

But that leaves out the idea of content itself, which leads us to a pretty good definition for educators: “The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.”

Still too wordy? Maybe a shorter version for students–with some moral imperatives and implied advice–could be: “the self-monitored habits that sustain and improve the digital communities you enjoy or depend on.”


Term: Digital Citizenship

Definition: The quality of habits, actions, and consumption patterns that impact the ecology of digital content and communities.

Examples of Digital Citizenship: Communicating with respect, respecting other’s privacy, seeing things from another perspective, adding helpful information/context to a discussion or wiki page, supporting others by offering useful feedback, encouraging them, or sharing work they’re proud of, etc.

Big Idea: Treating people, places, and ‘spaces’ with respect

Related Teaching & Learning Concepts: Empathy, Social Learning, Critical Literacy, Connectivism, Communal Constructivism

Related Teaching & Learning Resources:

63 Things Every Student Should Know In A Digital World

Moving Students From Digital Citizenship To Digital Leadership

Related Cultural Trends: Ubiquity of social media, Political ‘discussions’ on social media platforms, Freedom of Speech, ‘Global-Local’ social norms (i.e. China/free speech), Blogging, YouTube, Sociocultural equity, Globalization, Mental health, Bullying/Trolling, Clickbait, Critical thinking, ‘Fake News’

The Definition Of Digital Citizenship

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Abdur Rafay

great info 🙂
can i use your info for classwork


Hi! I would like to translate it into Spanish. May I have your permission?


I would like to print a single copy of the B&W Digital Citizenship poster for my classroom, but I need permission, a release to print. May I have permission? Or who should I ask?

There is a real need to engage as a citizen of this digital age. Very important to me.

It’s my goal to ensure that I am respecting and engaging in a inspirational way.

Jennifer Smith

Great post and I love the chart is it okay for me to use this as reference in my Soft Chalk presentation, I would like more specifically to use the chart…I am a student working toward my teaching degree. Thanks!



felica gibbs

Thanks! This is great! Can I use for church?


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23 commens

Joy Rosario

Would like to add Create, after all that is what we all do, including me in this message

Melissa Sisz

How can I bets print this in its present form?

Typo in the Access block – ‘supposed’ to, not ‘suppose’ to.

some awsome person



can I tránlate it into Vietnamese?

Awesome Person

Hey this is so amazing thanks for your help one my homework!!!

Jody Velde

Hello! I am presenting at TCEA 2015 about a digital citizen PBL my students did. Can I use your digital citizenship definition image above (with credit given of course) as a discussion piece for my presentation?

Adam Babcock

I hope I can get a copy of this in all of my teachers’ classrooms!

Katie Ritter

This is great- thank you so much for posting. I’m planning a Digital Citizenship Day for our 9th-12th grade students at the end of February, and I’ve been wrestling with defining/simplifying the idea of the term “digital citizenship’ for our students (and teachers). This is perfect! We’re starting the day with an all school assembly and then progressing through normal schedules, where each department is covering a topic/area of digital citizenship. Read more about the progress of the day here: Would it be alright if I used the first image in your post (with the definition on it) for… Read more »

some awsome person

School is cool