Digital citizenship: At school and at home


By Tessa Gray

Tessa Gray points out that NetSafe's recent survey shows that educators lack confidence in understanding digital citizenship and cyber safety. She provides a good starter's guide and a wealth of resources for educators to arm themselves with what they need to know for teaching cyber safety in school and beyond the school gates.

hide behind time

Recently, NetSafe asked New Zealand educators how confident were they in managing cybersafety in their schools.

The key findings from this survey showed:

  • Teachers do not feel confident supporting students with cybersafety, with secondary and intermediate teachers less confident than those teaching at primary level. A knowledge of cybersafety issues was needed by teachers.
  • In terms of managing issues, generally, students were not involved in discussions about appropriate use of ICT, filtering was seen as only one element of managing cybersafety, and
  • That issues extend beyond the school gate, but that educators were seen as vital in guiding students.

Most educators acknowledge the classroom landscape is changing (due to adoption of mobile and Internet technologies), and the research findings show nearly 70% of respondents realise they are required to “… be confident in supporting students to develop their digital citizenship, and, like other literacies and skills, digital literacy and cybersafety skills require cultivation and development”. But the findings from this research also shows a significant amount of New Zealand teachers (more so at the secondary level) are not confident about their own knowledge and ability to teach cybersafety.

Real world digital world

If being a successful digital citizen is just as important as being a "regular citizen", then perhaps we need to get busy finding ways to:

  • Increase teacher confidence and knowledge of cybersafety in the classroom—from generalist through to specialist teachers
  • Improve strategies for managing cybersafety by involving students and parents in a consultative process to help develop policies and user agreements
  • Extend messages of cybersafety and digital citizenship to the wider community.

There are plenty of local support materials for educators to access—to help them understand digital citizenship, as well as the issues associated with cybersafety. For example, if the research showed teachers lacked confidence with cyberbullying, identity theft, and exposure to inappropriate webpages, then they can fast become familiar with resources to help gain the confidence to teach these concepts in the classroom.


Useful strategies and ways to address cyber-bullying—for students, teachers and families can be found at:

Protecting identity

Identifying issues associated with identity online, and ways to manage this can be found at:

Internet censorship

Things to consider in terms of Internet access and censorship be found at:

Not just put filter on

The research indicated nearly two thirds of students are either unaware or not actively involved in any conversations or development of documentation around the effective/safe use of ICTs. Apart from talking about the issues, it would also be beneficial to have students involved in policy development.

Emma Watts from the Whakatu cluster has been sharing in the Virtual Learning Network what her students have been doing at Tahunanui school. The emphasis here is on how the students are part of the policy or user agreement process. More stories on how schools have consulted with their wider community can be found at:

Should talk to young people

Again, there is a plethora of information to help schools and communities develop cybersafe policies and documentation. To get kick-started, try:

Missing link is parents

We hear messages about life-long learning, learning anytime, anywhere, anyhow. So what does this mean beyond the school gates?

It is important for educators to understand the terminologies, implications, and processes for managing cyber safety, and it is equally necessary to keep the wider community informed. With over 60% responses indicating they were not certain if family and whanau were supported to understand the school’s acceptable use of ICTs, it would seem this is an immediate area to address. There are many great resources to support parents and caregivers to understand the concepts and issues of cyber safety and digital citizenship. Some of these can be found at:

It’s not as easy as throwing out some URLS. It takes time to discuss the issues and unpack the possibilities. A great place to start would be to unpack this research as a whole staff. It would also be a good idea to tap into school experts and share best-practice ideas with each other.

As mentioned in my blog post, Digital Citizenship (part 1), another way teachers can improve confidence with teaching digital citizenship and cyber- safe practices, is to continue to focus on the Key Competencies, and how this might translate into the digital realm.

Every edcuator's responsibility to be a digital citizen role model

Every educator is responsible for role modelling appropriate digital citizenship, and every teacher needs to prioritise this focus in his or her class, so that their students can become successful digital citizens 24/7.

The long-term implications for not doing this are huge.

Internet no longer static