Driving home from school, a teacher with the Lewisville Independent School District overheard her high school–aged son tell a friend about something he posted online. When she asked what he wrote, he explained that he carefully chose his words because he didn't want to disappoint his principal.
That's a good digital citizen, explains Jody Rentfro, emerging technologies specialist at Lewisville ISD in Texas. The student stopped to consider who would see his post and how readers would react to it. "I think there are kids in college who aren't aware of that," she adds.
A quick scan through social media sites shows that even many adults don't consider the consequences of their actions online. Thoughtless comments, compromising photos and oversharing are rampant on the web, and more people are paying attention, including college admissions officers, employers and criminals.
As the stakes of online content grow, schools around the globe have built increasingly comprehensive digital citizenship programs aimed at helping students — and teachers, staff and parents — to stay safe, be wise consumers, respect intellectual property, communicate effectively and think critically on the Internet.