There has never been a greater need for schools to take a proactive approach towards a whole school community promotion of digital citizenship, including online safety and wellbeing, than there is now.

This is why Netsafe has created its revised position on digital citizenship in education in its new white paper From literacy to fluency to citizenship: Digital Citizenship in Education.


Digital citizenship is a powerful enabler of inclusion in social, cultural and civil society.  Becoming a digital citizen is ‘part of who we all are’ in school; it should be planned for, and addressed, through multiple contexts including structured activities and wherever there is a meaningful opportunity to talk and learn about being online.

It is time to seek a definitive statement for digital citizenship and its relationship to ‘digital literacy’ and ‘digital fluency’. Netsafe’s view is that the proliferation of terms and abstract concepts does not help schools. A consensus view of the values, aims and knowledge underpinning these terms is required.

This paper is Netsafe’s initial contribution to achieving this aim. In this paper, Netsafe presents a revised model of digital citizenship:


Netsafe asserts that digital citizenship combines the confident, fluent use and combination of three key elements:

  • Skills and strategies to access technology to communicate, connect, collaborate and create;
  • Attitudes, underpinned by values that support personal integrity and positive connection with others;
  • Understanding and knowledge of the digital environments and contexts in which they are working, and how they integrate on/offline spaces;

and then critically:

  • The ability to draw on this competency of ‘digital fluency’ to participate in life-enhancing opportunities (social, economic, cultural, civil) and achieve their goals in ways that make an important difference.

Six underpinning principles for digital citizenship

Netsafe advocates for the following six principles to underpin approaches to the development of digital citizenship:

  1. Ako  |  Young people are “active agents” in the design and implementation of digital citizenship, including approaches to online safety
  2. Whānaungatanga | An unbounded, coherent home-school-community approach is central to the development of digital citizenship and online safety management
  3. Manaakitanga  |  Approaches to digital citizenship are inclusive, responsive and equitable in design and implementation
  4. Wairuatanga  |  Digital citizenship in action positively contributes to wellbeing and resilience development enabling safer access to effective learning and social opportunities
  5. Mahi tahi  |  Digital citizenship development and online safety incident management are fostered through partnership approaches, coherent systems and collaboration
  6. Kotahitanga  |  Evaluation and inquiry underpin the ongoing design of digital citizenship approaches, based on rich evidence from young people and their whānau.

The white paper provides a detailed explanation of the model and principles.

What should schools and kura do now?

Schools can still use The Netsafe Kit for Schools, a seven step process for building an environment that promotes and enhances online safety through digital citizenship.

Stay up-to-date with how the ideas in this paper are developing by subscribing to Netsafe’s newsletter. Policy advisors, interest groups and researchers are welcome to contact us for further discussion and collaboration.

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