Social Technology

Many laws and federal regulations apply to youth and online social technology. Learn the rights and responsibilities of teens, the relevant laws, and what teachers and librarians need to know in order to implement them within your school. Explore approaches to teaching students about their role as responsible digital citizens.

Our young people are active users of social technology.

They have technology. Now we want to help our students make good choices about its use. However when we get preachy, we lose them.

Social Technology: Rights and Responsibilities

Rights and Responsibility

Rather than creating a culture of fear, we need to help young people make good choices.

Minors, the Internet, and the Law

When designing programs for young people, educators must adhere to the laws and regulations associated with Internet and minors

Intellectual Freedom

Intellectual freedom includes the right of students to seek and use information from all points of view and to express ideas and information without undue restrictions.

Honesty and the Law

Young people are legally responsible for their words and actions. It's easy to hide behind web pseudonyms. However deceptive activities can lead to serious consequences. Twenty-six percent of teens have pretended to be someone else online; eighteen percent have pretended to be an adult; and sixteen percent have posted false information about others (Common Sense Media, 2009).

Intellectual Property and the Copyright Law

Young people need to understand copyright law.

Privacy Expectations and the Law

Teens have the right to privacy. Some young people lack the skills to protect their personal information. The 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student education records.

Safety Issues

Many adults are concerned about the safety of teens online. Nancy Willard (2006) identified three concerns: (1) brain research reveals that teens are immature and can make poor choices in social situations, (2) many parents don't monitor student activities, (3) dangerous adults are attracted to young people who make poor choices.

Acceptable Use Policies

Think of these policies as guidelines for "responsible use" rather than a list of what "not to do". These policies should explain what can and can't be done and the consequences for inappropriate behavior.

Digital Citizenship: Teaching Ethical Behavior

Educators must promote and model legal and ethical technology practices.


Educating students is part of the standards as well as a requirement of BDIA. More than 3/4 of young people think digital abuse is a serious problem (MTV-AP, 2009).

Promote American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st Century Learner.

Teens must learn to access and evaluate the information found on social networks. 

Teens must learn to follow legal regulations and demonstrate ethical behavior associated with social networks.

Promote International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) for Students

Standard 5: Digital Citizenship - Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior. Students:  

  1. advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use of information and technology.
  2. exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
  3. demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
  4. exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.

Develop stand-alone units as well as materials that can be integrated across the curriculum.

Social Technology and Moral Development

As you think about talking with students about digital citizenship, keep in mind that students come to your classroom with diverse abilities in dealing with moral dilemmas.

How will you deal with the different developmental levels?

Information, Choices, and Action

Read more about Ethical Use of Social Technology: The Decision-making Process (PDF) or click the image below on left.
(Adapted from Annette Lamb, Everyone Does It. Teaching Ethical Use of Social Technology, Knowledge Quest)

Ethical BehaviorEthical Behavior

Instructional Strategies

Read more about Ethical Use of Social Technology: Instructional Strategies (PDF) or click the image above right.
(Adapted from Annette Lamb, Everyone Does It. Teaching Ethical Use of Social Technology, Knowledge Quest)

Teacher Resources

Explore the following resources for ideas:

Promote Digital Citizenship

  1. Model Effective Use. Example: Post booktrailers on YouTube. Explore the Trailee Awards
  2. Engage Students. Example: Use social networks to promote resources and services. Example: Virtual Presence
  3. Be Available. Example: Use social networks to increase visibility. Participate in an online book club. Example: Good Reads
  4. Build Communities. Example: Build a sense of community by creating community programs such as online parenting or nature studies. Example: One Book
  5. Sponsor Events. Example: Offer programs that focus on ethical behavior such as the availability of public domain resources and sources for creating original music using tools such as Garage Band.

Rather than overemphasizing the negative, focus on preparing young people to be responsible digital citizens. Focus on practical strategies for handling tough situations and the many positive applications of online communication and collaboration.

For many more ideas, go to my website at

Learn More

This session is based on two recent articles written by Annette Lamb:

Other Resources

Common Sense Media.  “Is Technology Changing Childhood? A National Poll on Teens and Social Networking,” Available:

Lenhart, Amanda & Madden, Mary.  “Teens, Privacy and Online Social Networks.” Pew Internet & American Life Project (April 2007).

“MTV-AP Digital Abuse Study.”  Knowledge Works.  (September 23, 2009).

Willard, Nancy E.  (2006).  “A Briefing for Educators: Online Social Networking Communities and Youth Risk.” Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

Wolak, Janis, Finkelhor, Davis, & Mitchell, Kimberly.  “Trends in Arrests of Online Predators.” Crimes Against Children Research Center (2009): 1-10.  Available:

Developed by Annette Lamb, 11/2010.