Safety, Privacy, and Digital Citizenship: Introductory Materials

Safety, Privacy, and Digital Citizenship

Young people use technology in every aspect of their personal lives. To empower young people to be better digital citizens, we must seek to integrate digital literacies into their educational lives as well. In engaging this dialogue, across subject areas, we must take into account the importance not only of coding literacy, but also of web literacy and privacy management more broadly. In terms of managing privacy among peers, web-fluent young people can be extraordinarily savvy; however, like many adults, they may also incur risks that are not immediately apparent to them, in part from a lack of understanding of how large and enduring their digital footprint can be.

Through interactive activities and peer-facilitated discussion, students will be able to define key safety, privacy, and digital citizenship concepts and make more informed decisions about managing their personal information online. This curriculum is designed as a series of 15-20-minute lesson plans, which you can use as we have laid out, or in a fashion that best suits your own needs. All activities are modular, and the curriculum is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License, which means that you can share freely and remix the lessons—as long as you credit us. Please remix!


BCIS thanks the Digital Literacy Toolkit team for their efforts on this curriculum: Sandra Cortesi, David Cruz, Urs Gasser, Paulina Haduong, Andres Lombana-Bermudez, Jeremiah Milbauer, Leah Plunkett, Dalia Topelson Ritvo, and Zoe Wood.

The Digital Literacy Toolkit team at BCIS would like to thank the following people and organizations for their valuable input and support.

  • The Digital Media and Learning Research Hub Trust Challenge, supported by the MacArthur Foundation and administered by HASTAC.
  • Our collaborators in the Digital Literacy Toolkit: MIT Scratch, New York Public Library, Press Pass TV, NuVu, the Engagement Game Lab, and the Walnut Hill School.
  • Common Sense Media
  • ConnectSafely
  • Phillips Academy Andover
  • Claudia L’Amoreaux

We would like to extend special thanks to our collaborator iKeepSafe for their input and feedback, particularly in sharing their Privacy Curriculum Matrix K-12 BEaPRO™ with us as guidance for developing this curriculum, which is available online at

National Standards

We have sought to align this curriculum to the greatest extent possible to the relevant standards from the Common Core English Learning Arts, American Association of School Librarians, and International Society of Technology Education. Because the creation of digital literacy and safety curricula is still a relatively new field, not all standards are precisely on point in terms of the content and skills we seek to cover. We encourage user feedback in this area in particular.

Next Steps

We are releasing curricular modules in a series of small batches in order to best integrate and respond to collaborator and user feedback on content and design. (Please consult the Berkman Center’s Digital Literacy Resource Platform, online at, for module availability. All modules will be posted there as they are released.) This document—and those to follow shortly—represents our first version. We understand curricular design to be an inherently iterative process, so we’d love to know what kinds of im-provements you’re making, as well as what your students liked and didn’t like. We expect to release updated versions going forward and would be delighted to incorporate your feedback. For questions or feedback, please contact Paulina Haduong at the Berkman Center at


Core Topics: Grades 9-10

Concepts and Competencies

  • Balance: Maintaining a healthy balance between online and offline activities
  • Ethical Use: Making ethical decisions, being considerate of others and understanding potential consequences of online behavior
  • Privacy: Protecting personal information and that of others
  • Relationships: Engaging in safe and healthy online connections
  • Reputation: Building a positive and truthful online presence that will contribute to future success
  • Online Security: Using good habits for securing hardware and software


  • Awareness: Why does privacy matter?
  • Protection: How can I protect myself?
  • Data Collection and Boundaries: What are some of the legal and ethical boundaries of data collection?
  • Sharing: How can I only share information with whom I want? How do I protect my reputation?

Workshop Modules1

Note: These modules can be taught in any sequence, so feel free to mix and match!

  • Intro to Privacy in the Digital Age [45 min]
  • Passwords [30 min]
  • Respect & Boundaries [15 min]
  • Social Media and Sharing [30 min]
  • Gaming and Online Privacy [35 min]
  • Reputation [20 min]
  • Mobile Location Security [20 min]
  • Facial Recognition [25 min]
  • Flirting & Sexting [15 min]
  • Public Wifi [15 min]
  • Data Collection & Terms of Service [35 min]
  • Monitoring & Surveillance [30 min]
  • Cyberbullying [20 min]
  • Email [23 min]
  • Anonymity & Online Identities [24 min]
  • Cybersecurity, Phishing, & Spam [17 min]

General extension activities

  • Students could create videos or other creative projects to teach others about privacy.
  • Students could also create lesson plans and teach younger grades about privacy issues.


1. The following modules, including accompanying handouts, are based on the framework found in the Volunteer Privacy Educators Program Curriculum developed by the Center for Law and Information Policy at Fordham University: Intro to Privacy in the Digital Age, Changing Contexts of Privacy, Passwords, Social Media and Sharing, Gaming and Online Privacy, Reputation, Flirting & Sexting, Mobile Location Security, Facial Recognition, and Public Wifi. Specific excerpts or quotations from the Volunteer Privacy Educators Program Curriculum (“CLIP Curriculum”) appear in quotation marks and are cited in the modules and handouts where they appear. The CLIP Curriculum is available online in two parts (1) Lesson Plan Outlines, (“CLIP Curriculum Lesson”) and (2) Teacher Training Manual, (“CLIP Curriculum Teacher”).↩'


Three big ideas explored in the curriculum are privacy, safety, and reputation. Below we’ve assembled a col-lection of modules to be taught to specifically focus on one topic. Each track includes a debate activity that explores an issue within each topic. Modules with bolded titles are considered crucial to these tracks, while other modules may reinforce and complement the material.


  • Intro to Privacy in the Digital Age
  • Changing Contexts of Privacy
  • Respect & Boundaries
  • Social Media & Sharing
  • Gaming and Online Privacy
  • Mobile Location Security
  • Facial Recognition
  • Data Collection & Terms of Service
  • Monitoring & Surveillance
  • Anonymity & Online Identities
  • Debate: Surveillance


  • Passwords
  • Gaming and Online Privacy
  • Flirting & Sexting
  • Public Wifi
  • Monitoring & Surveillance
  • Cyberbullying
  • Anonymity & Online Identities
  • Cybersecurity, Phishing, & Spam
  • Debate: Free Speech & Hate Speech


  • Respect & Boundaries
  • Social Media & Sharing
  • Reputation
  • Flirting & Sexting
  • Anonymity & Online Identities
  • Debate: Right to be Forgotten

Curricular Integration

There are exciting opportunities to teach this material every day in the classroom, even if you are not in a position to teach the entire curriculum. We have listed some ideas of potential teaching moments below and encourage educators to explore how they might integrate the issues and ideas presented in this curriculum into their existing lessons. Whenever you encourage or require students to go online when teaching this or other material, please keep in mind that you will want to make sure any online activity is consistent with any school, district, or other applicable policies, as well as any applicable privacy laws and regulations.


  • Changing Context of Privacy: Whenever you use an external application (such as a class blog, social networking platform, or technology explicitly designed for education), it presents an opportunity to discuss what you share online and the role of privacy norms. You can also work in some of the consequences of sharing online from other modules (including “Reputation” and “Social Media & Sharing”).
  • Passwords: Whenever you log into an external application in front of your students and/or ask your students to log in, you have a good opportunity to discuss how best to construct, share, and manage passwords. You use “Cybersecurity, Phishing, & Spam” to teach about the risks of being unsafe online.
  • Reputation: When discussing future opportunities for students, whether jobs or college, it is important to emphasize how one’s online reputation can play an important role.
  • Cyberbullying: Online harassment is a serious threat to young people. Whenever discussing safety or bullying, this module can be useful.
  • Email: If you are using email for your class and you are not sure if all your students are familiar with it, this module can make sure everyone is on the same page. This module can also be a useful opportunity for students to help their parents or extended relatives with email.


  • Social Media & Sharing: Whenever discussing networks and how things are spread through them (ideas, diseases, physical matter, etc.), social networks are useful prototypes. Topics discussed in this section can be used to help teach or reinforce the material.
  • Flirting & Sexting: When teaching sexual education, this topic is useful to help educate young people about potential threats to their safety.
  • Public Wifi: Wifi operates using physical signals, which could be elaborated on in a science class. Discussing waves or frequency is a good opportunity to discuss how wifi works.

Social Studies

  • Monitoring & Surveillance: When teaching American history, you can tie in the lessons from this module to teach about the Fourth Amendment.
  • Debate: Free Speech & Hate Speech: When teaching American history, you can tie in the lessons from this module to teach about the First Amendment.


  • Social Media & Sharing: Consider encouraging students to start a blog for short writing assignments. Students should consider how to share media online and its potential effects, both positive and negative.


  • Social Media & Sharing: Consider encouraging students to share their work via social media (i.e., YouTube, Soundcloud, Deviant Art, etc.).Students should consider how to share media online and its potential effects, both positive and negative.

An evaluation for students is included in the full document which is linked to at the bottom of this page.

Individual vs. Group 
Release Date 
March, 2016