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Digital Citizenship: Getting Started

A guide to informational resources related to digital literacy, etiquette, rights, and responsibility.

What Does Digital Citizenship Mean?

The phrase "digital citizenship" refers to the responsible use of technology and the expected behaviors or social norms. Digital citizenship is important on both a personal and global scale. It impacts the interactions we have with other people online, but also how we access and use information or other media we find online.

There are various elements to digital citizenship, including digital literacy, digital etiquette, and digital rights and responsibilities.

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is the ability to locate, recognize, evaluate, and use information effectively. It refers to the ways in which we interact with existing information, create new information or media, and perform other tasks in digital spaces.

One way you can think of what it means to be digitally literate is by applying Bloom's Taxonomy to any research you do online. Starting from the bottom of the pyramid, you should be able to remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create new, original work from information you find online.

Armstrong, P. (2010). Bloom’s Taxonomy. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved July 23, 2022 from

Digital Etiquette

Digital etiquette (also known as netiquette) dictates how we behave online. If etiquette means following the social conventions of politeness and professionalism towards others, then digital etiquette refers to one's ability to do the same online (Pfeiffer Library, 2020, sec. 1). It includes using technology only when it is appropriate and in ways that minimize negative effects on others.

One example of digital etiquette is engaging in respectful discussions with others on social media. Another is silencing your cell phone while in a movie theater.

Dos and Don'ts of Digital Etiquette
  • Use formal salutations like "Dear" or "To Whom It May Concern" when writing professional emails. Address the recipient formally by title unless otherwise instructed: Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Professor. Sign off with "Sincerely" or "Regards" and your name.
  • Proofread carefully before you hit "send" on an email, blog post, or comment. Use the standard conventions of grammar, including proper capitalization and punctuation.
  • Be clear and concise in what you say. Try to leave no room for misunderstanding.
  • Be aware of your audience. The tone you use with professors and colleagues is different than the tone you use with close friends and family.
  • Model good behavior to your peers online and show empathy towards others in your content.
  • Report cyber-bullies, threats, and other inappropriate behavior that you witness online.
  • Share company secrets, private or protected information, defamatory, or otherwise protected materials. These actions can have legal ramifications.
  • Send quick, flippant responses or angry messages. Instead, write a rough draft, read it carefully, and think it over before you hit the "send" button.
  • Write false, inflammatory, or inciting things in your posts or comments. Carefully scrutinize material before you share it so that you don't fall victim to misinformation or disinformation.
  • Fall into the habit of cyberbullying to get your way. Don't right threatening, taunting, or discriminating comments on other's social media accounts (Pfeiffer Library, 2020, sec. 2 & 3).


Pfeiffer Library at Tiffin University. (2020, March 24). Netiquette. Digital literacy: Netiquette and internet safety. Retrieved July 23, 2022 from

Digital Rights and Responsibilities

Digital rights and responsibilities refer to issues like right to privacy of our personal information, equitable access to information, and the responsibility to use that information in ethical ways. If we have a right to equitable access to digital resources, we also have a responsibility to use digital resources in an ethical way. Using online information and other media ethically means respecting the intellectual property of others, citing ownership correctly, and not downloading or sharing files illegally.

Personal Identifiable Information and Data Privacy

According to the U.S. Department of Labor (n.d.), "Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is defined as: any representation of information that permits the identity of an individual to whom the information applies to be reasonably inferred by either direct or indirect means" (para. 1). PII includes a person's name, address, social security number (or other unique, identifying number), phone number, email address, gender, race, birth date, and geographic indicator (U.S. Department of Labor, n.d., para. 1).

Here are some tips for protecting your personal information online:
  • Limit personal and professional information: remove PII (as defined above) and employment information from your social media profiles. This can prevent someone from pretending to be you.
  • Turn on your privacy settings: many browsers, apps, and social media platforms have privacy settings. Utilize these to keep your content locked down and under your control. Be wary of quizzes and other add-ons that ask for permission to access certain information about you: this is one way hackers can bypass your privacy settings.
  • Practice safe browsing habits: avoid sites with questionable content. They are known for installing malware on your device and exposing your personal information to hackers. 
  • Use a secure network: only transmit private information (like social security numbers or financial information) over a secure network. Public networks are easily hacked.
  • Watch what you download: use anti-virus software to scan files before you download them. Avoid downloading apps or programs from sites you do not know or trust. 
  • Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date: anti-virus software can be costly, but a badly infected computer can have far-reaching impacts. Set your anti-virus software to run periodic updates. Do not ignore notification messages for anti-virus renewals or updates.
  • Choose strong passwords: avoid password combinations which are easy to guess. A strong password should be 15-20 characters long and contain letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using the same password for multiple sites. Use password manager software like LastPass, KeePass, 1Password, or Strongbox.
  • Only enter financial information on secure sites: you can determine whether a site is secure by looking at the link. If it begins with https: it is secure. If it begins with http: it is not secure. Look for other clues in your browser's address bar, such as a padlock icon, to indicate a site's security level.
  • Be careful who you meet online: remember that not everyone you meet online is truthful about their identity. Fake social media accounts are a perfect way for hackers to bypass your security settings and get access to the things you only let "friends" see. Be diligent in who you allow to see that private information (Pfeiffer Library, 2020, sec. 2).

Remember: nothing posted online is ever truly private.


Pfeiffer Library at Tiffin University. (2020, March 24). Safety tips. Digital literacy: Netiquette and internet safety. Retrieved July 23, 2022 from

U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.). Guidance on the protection of personal identifiable information. Retrieved July 18, 2022, from

Copyright and Fair Use in Education

Copyright is a federal law that grants (for a limited time) exclusive rights to authors of original, creative works fixed in a tangible medium of expression. It is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to creators over their intellectual property, including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. It also provides exceptions to those exclusive rights under certain circumstances.

Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement that allows certain persons or entities to use, access, copy, distribute, remix, publicly perform, or publicly display limited portions of protected material for certain purposes. Under the fair use doctrine, you may be able to use copyright protected work without having to receive the copyright owner's permission or pay them. Clear rules do not exist for interpreting what exact uses constitute fair use, thus it is a judgment call and ultimately it would be up to a court of law to determine whether a use is considered fair or not.

See the Cazenovia College Copyright Policy and Witherill Library's research guide on Copyright & Fair Use for specific details.


U.S. Copyright Office. (n.d.). U.S. Copyright Law. Retrieved March 30, 2020, from

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