Digital Citizenship: Safety and Security

Teachers have a duty, as 21st century educators to "promote and model digital citizenship and responsibility" (ISTE, 2008) for our students. While many students may be self-proclaimed experts of the digital age, they still are frighteningly naïve. The ninth element of digital citizenship is the concept of digital security (Ribble, 2016). Many students, indeed many people, think that the internet is largely benign, and trust their data to nearly anyone.

Security: Many students try to get around network filters by use of proxy servers. Unfortunately, they do so without a knowledge of what is actually happening with their data: a VPN (Virtual Private Network) takes data you send to it, processes the request, fetches the information, and brings it back to you. This means that all unencrypted data you send through a VPN can be viewed by whoever is running it. The fact many trust so blindly is alarming. The reality is that the internet is not a benign place where everyone is looking to help each other, although this does exist. We must be careful with who we trust our data to, and keep a mindful eye on sites that are not "secure". A useful thing to keep in mind is if it costs money to run, they're probably making money from it somehow. Most of the time, this is in the form of ad revenue, but some sites resort to selling your information. BotNets, collections of hacked computers, are often used by hackers to do all sorts of things, from sending spam to taking down a website. Careless actions can expose your computer to infection, and these BotNets are often sold or rented out to the highest bidder, for a frighteningly low price of around $20 per month (Darkode, 2015). Below is a great podcast that expands on this topic:


  • You can check if your email has been compromised through various sites, such as
  • To combat the security of all of your accounts being compromised by one password leak, a good practice is to use different passwords for each account. is a great tool to use to securely store all your passwords.

Digital Rights: We, as digital citizens, must defend our digital rights, which have been attacked in the name of "safety". The fact is that the internet does not belong to any government, and it can be used by anyone. Unfortunately, this includes people who seek to cause harm, which has lead to some pretty outrageous proposals that go against the our rights as digital citizens. Some states have proposed bans on encryption, as it is what the bad guys used to commit their crimes (Greenberg, 2016).

Some of the "basic rights" of digital citizens are being challenged right now, and have been for the past few years. SOPA and CISPA were two big bills that sought to trample over many of our digital and judicial rights in an attempt to "fight against digital acts of piracy". The Economist had a great article about it, where they shared that "the bill’s provisions will help America defend itself against attempts by hackers to penetrate vital infrastructure and pinch companies’ intellectual property. CISPA’s critics, which include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital-rights group, and Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox web browser, argue that it could achieve that goal without riding roughshod over privacy laws designed to prevent the government getting its hands on citizens’ private data without proper judicial oversight." (Economist, 2013).

Although these bills were issues over three years ago, and were successfully fought against by the general internet population, there is a consistent push to trample over our digital rights, as they are seen as "lesser". In order to have the internet be a safe place for expression and information, we must not only fight against bills like this ourselves, but show our students that these are also rights that they must fight for.

A more recent example is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposal that seeks to allegedly increase our nations GDP, while certainly trampling over our rights, both digital and civil. The breadth of the TPP is too large in scope to cover here, but I highly encourage all to check out a great web comic that explains it very well.


ISTE Standards Teachers. (2008). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from

Darkode [Audio blog interview]. (2015, September 21). Retrieved November 21, 2016, from

Ribble, M. (2016). Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship. Retrieved November 1, 2016, from

Greenberg, A. (16, January 27). Proposed State Bans on Phone Encryption Make Zero Sense. Retrieved November 21, 2016, from

Created By
Mattias Mirabile


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