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Common Sense Education

Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship is a K-12 digital educational curriculum that empowers the next generation of digital citizens.


San Francisco, CA


As schools integrate technology, and students of all ages spend more time online, families and educators face mounting challenges related to students’ online safety, privacy, and literacy. Students may encounter abuse or misinformation online; they may also engage in online communication or behavior without understanding the related risk. Digital Citizenship is designed to give educators the tools that they need to keep kids safe online, including lessons, family engagement resources, and online training for teachers.

In 2015, American teenagers averaged nearly nine hours of entertainment media every day. Children ages 8-12 consumed an average of almost six hours.

Digital Citizenship caters to US students of all ages. It has been designed and tested for K-12 classrooms across the US, and provided at no cost to schools. Originally launched in 2010, the curriculum has kept pace with shifting challenges in the dynamic technology landscape: in August 2019, it was overhauled to include news and media literacy, healthy media balance and well-being, and hate speech materials. Today, almost a million educators in all 50 states are using Digital Citizenship resources.

The Digital Citizenship curriculum helps educators and families develop key digital competencies and understanding in K-12 students. The Digital Citizenship curriculum helps educators and families develop key digital competencies and understanding in K-12 students.

The Challenge

American teenagers

Digital media is increasingly ubiquitous in the lives of young people. In 2015, American teenagers (ages 13-18) averaged nearly nine hours of entertainment media use every day, including TV, computer, tablet, and mobile phone use. Children ages 8-12 consumed an average of almost six hours of media entertainment daily.1 95 percent of teenagers have their own mobile devices, and 45 percent say they’re online “almost constantly.”2 During that time online, children and teens face increasingly complex digital dilemmas, including how to balance media use and mental health, managing relationships, navigating misinformation, sharing personal information, and more.

Making good decisions requires not just digital competency, but also what educators call “dispositions,” or tendencies that guide thought and behavior. For instance, students need skills to identify phishing and clickbait, but should also be able to consider possible outcomes before sharing a photo or replying to a comment online.

About the Intervention

Digital Citizenship aims to build critical digital skills and dispositions, giving students the skills they need to succeed as digital learners, leaders, and citizens of tomorrow. The curriculum includes 73 lesson plans and 32 videos that address six topics: media balance and well-being; privacy and security; digital footprint and identity; relationships and communication; cyberbullying; digital drama and hate speech; and news and media literacy. Each lesson incorporates real-world digital dilemmas, and the content is adopted for the maturity of the student audience.

The program is designed to work across communities and contexts. The curriculum can be taught in many different ways, including in elective classes or incorporated into subject area classes such as Civics, English Language, or Social Studies. Educators from different roles and training can teach the curriculum, and it is designed to be taught in both high and low-tech contexts. Materials are available in Spanish and English. Common Sense Education also believes in a “whole-community” approach, in which families are also engaged in digital learning, so the curriculum also includes family engagement materials.

Impact & Future Plans

The Digital Citizenship curriculum is currently used by 875,000 educators across all 50 US states, reaching 75,000 US schools in total. In a survey of educators using the materials, 98% said that the Digital Citizenship Curriculum helped them to feel confident in teaching digital citizenship to their students. 97% agreed that their students learned digital citizenship skills.

In 2020, Common Sense Education will continue to develop the curriculum, adding new “quick” activities for educators with time constraints or for non-traditional class settings such as after school programs. The organization will also launch a Digital Citizenship Implementation Guide for schools and districts, which will include implementation models, case studies from school districts, and planning templates for education leaders interested in integrating digital citizenship in their schools.

  1. ¹ Rideout, V. (2015). The Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens. Retrieved from Common Sense Media website: port.pdf 

  2. ² James, C., Weinstein, E., & Mendoza, K. (2019). Teaching digital citizens in today’s world: Research and insights behind the Common Sense K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media.