Technology has invaded every aspect of our life and we have all welcomed it with open arms. It’s no secret that, more often than not, we are completely reliant on our phones and computers: for education, work, daily tasks, banking, shopping, news, to name a few. In such a global world where technology is the infrastructure and the foundation, people had to come up with a few rules to govern their affairs. A digital world most definitely requires a digital citizenship.
Digital Citizenship Definition
In short, we can bluntly say that Belonging to the world of the Internet is only a matter of tact: to know how to utilize your time on the online sphere properly, and to do it often.
Supposedly, once you establish any online presence at all, using an email or sharing a blog post, your digital citizenship has started. Now you can get an online diploma, practice your job, vote, communicate with others in your homeland, and practically everything else an offline citizen does, but online.
We are all digital citizens in a way or another. If we never leave our rooms we would still be active participants in our society through the Internet. The concept also entails online safety, ethics, etiquette, norms, digital literacy, among others.
Finally, Digital Citizenship defines it as “the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use.”
The Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship
- Digital Access
Citizens of the big wide world are not granted equal opportunities at Internet access. That can pose an obstacle because they are denied what digital citizens are provided at leisure. Working towards “digital rights” and supporting Internet access worldwide is one of your duties as a digital citizen. Digital exclusion can seriously compromise the process; thus, those with limited digital access must be compensated with the appropriate resources to assure productivity. All digital citizens must work together for “full electronic participation in society.”
- Digital Commerce
In our modern world, buying and selling can happen online effectively and conveniently. Whether you’re shipping a book oversees or buying a new car in your own city, the whole process can take place in the digital world, and it would be legitimate and reliable. Because the economy has taken a leap into the digital world, one must carefully learn what governs it there. The Internet can conceal a range of activities and commodities that are in direct conflict with national or international law, like, “illegal downloading, pornography, and gambling.” Therefore, learning the rules that govern digital economy allows you to be a safe and effective consumer.
- Digital Communication
If nothing else, better communication is the most apparent consequence of technology. We are constantly in touch with the outside world and others. Any person on the planet is a few buttons away. It is remarkable how close we have become in our respective distances. Our digital communication options are always increasing: new devices, better phones, faster instant messaging apps, etc. As digital citizens we must be aware of the merits and detriments of digital communication, and we must learn how to make appropriate decisions when dealing with the digital world.
- Digital Literacy
Learning is an ongoing process. Everyday technology unfolds the mystery of tens of riddles. Students of all fields of learning must be fully capable of self-teaching. They must learn to keep up to date with the technological advances in their field of interest. Similarly, in the workplace, employees should develop themselves, be in the know, and know their way around the most recent advances in their line of work. Medicine, engineering, and teaching are a few examples of fields were the process of learning never stops. Digital citizens are capable of learning anything, anytime, and anywhere through effective and productive use of digital devices.
- Digital Etiquette
We have all been there. The Internet can be a scary place. Between scams, cyber bullying, and vulgarities, people might find it difficult to blend in. There is no particular brochure for digital etiquette. But the rule of thumb is, if it is bad to do in real life, then it’s bad to do online. Never say something online that you wouldn’t say in real life. The sphere might be virtual, but the people are very real.
- Digital Law
Just like in the offline world, laws govern human interactions and businesses in the digital world. Illegal activities include theft (that of intellectual property or actual money) and abuse (cyber crime, blackmail, etc.). Hacking, creating a virus, or cyber vandalism should be punishable as seriously as an offline crime. The laws must apply on everyone who uses the Internet to work or play to assure safety and security.
- Digital Rights and Responsibilities
A digital citizen must be fully aware of their rights and their responsibilities. To assure productivity, an online user must feel safe and protected. Among these rights are privacy and free speech, which are also the rights of offline citizens. The rights and responsibilities would help beginners understand how to appropriately deal with the digital world.
- Digital Health and Wellness
We regularly spend half (sometimes more) of our day in front of a computer or a mobile phone. This can have serious consequences physically and psychologically. Whether it is the decaying eyesight or the stress problems, a digital citizen must learn to mind their health and practice their digital activities safely. Similarly, psychological problems like Internet addiction or porn addiction must be addressed and dealt with.
- Digital Security
We are usually very protective of our concrete properties: our homes, assets, and ourselves. The same level of security should be taken into consideration when talking of our digital properties or our digital presence. We must learn how to protect our information and identity from theft, misuse, or loss.
Finally, the nine elements of digital citizenship can be summarized into the simple concept of REPs: respect, educate, and protect. “Respect” covers respecting yourself and others (digital access, digital law, and digital etiquette). “Educate” covers educating yourself and connecting with others (digital literacy, digital communication, and digital commerce). “Protect” covers protecting yourself and others (digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness, and digital security).
Digital Citizenship Week
Parents are often concerned about their children’s use of the Internet. Some wouldn’t think encouraging digital citizenship is such a good idea. But kids are going to use the Internet anyway, and digital citizenship will at least make sure they use it properly, and that they are safe and protected while doing so.
Accordingly, it’s important for children to know their way around the digital world, to utilize it as much as their age allows. That is the whole point of digital citizenship week, for schools to engage their students and for families to engage their kids in the digital world ethics and practices.
First point of interest in digital citizenship week is the definition of digital citizenship. Kids should be aware of the vast world that the Internet opens for them. Familiar with the definition and the different themes, the children will carry on their online practices with a greater sense of responsibility.
Common Sense Education offers many resources and materials for children to learn more about the guidelines and rules of digital citizenship. The materials can be viewed online or printed and distributed in classes and, the website states, are specifically designed to “empower students to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world.” Children learn generally beneficial concepts like their rights and how to stand against abuse. They also learn to avoid cyber bullying and plagiarism, respect others’ opinions and conviction, take the victim’s side in online conflicts, etc.
Among the fun ways that children can use to familiarize with the concept of digital citizenship are videos. Various videos of all sorts of online activities exist. Videos can be much more effective in education because they are interactive and personal. Schools can also use colorful posters with cute drawings emphasizing the themes and ethics of digital citizenship.
Our new world can be demandy. Soon enough, most official transactions will be done online. You’ll have to know your way around the Internet to sustain your healthy engagement in the world’s affairs. Same goes for your child. The Internet can be dangerous but it is also becoming indispensable. Teach your child to be a good offline and online citizen. Teach them to make the best out of the river of data the Internet has created for us.