Definition: What is Digital Citizenship?
Digital citizenship is a broad term that addresses every aspect of online behaviour that an individual may interact with, or be responsible for. This includes digital literacy, cyber safety, digital wellness, and responsible online etiquette. Digital citizenship trains students to learn how to behave responsibly online and to encourage positive digital growth and a more collaborative, connected world.
Digital citizenship is slowly being introduced into school curriculum as a crucial part of developmental education, although it is not yet widespread in being recognised as a fundamental subject. However, efforts from cyber advocates are promising as few governments have started to make it a necessary part of the education curriculum.
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Why is digital citizenship important?
As we approach a more digitally connected society, we become active participants within a vast online community that requires each individual to act responsibly in order to operate and thrive together. Digital citizenship, much like being citizens of a country, draws on the notion that we have inherent responsibilities and safeguarding behaviours to abide by so that society can function. However, unlike being in a country, there is no ‘online police’ to protect us from strangers online, hence why digital citizenship is a crucial subject to teach in schools.
To be a responsible digital citizen, we must first be equipped with strong digital literacy. This simply means having the right skills to communicate and use tech devices effectively as part of everyday life. Students must also practice digital responsibility, which in short refers to good “netiquette” conduct and taking ownership in becoming ethical online citizens.
Cyber safety is a key subject that inherently comes with digital citizenship. Even with strong digital literacy, without proper cyber safety education users will be at risk of all the threats that exist on the internet. At Cyberlite, we teach cyber safety in two ways: the tools we can use to protect ourselves against online harm, and the behaviours we have to look out for to safeguard against. In the first approach, we explore how to use tools and techniques to build anonymous digital identities, understand digital footprints, long and strong passwords, install antivirus software, and make sure privacy settings are always on. It is important that these basic protective measures become second nature to students as they are the first steps to being internet safe.
In the second half of our approach, we encourage critical thinking around cyber behaviours, and the idea that as digital citizens we are also responsible for our interactions online. This includes grooming, phishing, spreading fake news (media literacy), and cyberbullying. Getting kids to start thinking critically and become cyber smart boils down to a simple question that they should be asking: “What’s their motivation behind this?”. These are all big topics that are covered in the comprehensive cybersafety book, Ready, Get Set, Connect!, where these issues are approached in a sensitive yet informative manner for children ages 8 and up.
A holistic approach to digital citizenship also includes digital wellbeing, health, and wellness. The habitual and prolonged usage of phones and computers have been proven to affect our mental wellbeing and physical health. This calls into attention the importance of establishing balance in a digital world, and how it can help us become mindful and attentive in our actions online. Digital wellness also encourages practicing digital kindness and digital responsibility, and to stay away from cyberbullying, sending hateful messages, and spreading distressing misinformation.
Digital citizenship should be seen as a continuous subject to teach in schools and should not be treated as a checkbox of learning objectives to cross off. At every stage of a young person’s life they will encounter new issues and challenges online, and it’s up to us to prepare students to take ownership of their online behaviours and digital interactions.
Digital Citizenship Activities
Here are some activities and tips you can do to engage in digital citizenship education:
Are you part of a school looking to teach digital citizenship in class? Talk to us!
Are you part of an organization looking to promote digital citizenship with your employees, or activate it as part of your CSR campaign? Talk to us!
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Get our book about cyber safety for kids here
Ready, Get Set, Connect! Workbook