This post has been updated on July 8, 2020.
With the rise of the Internet, we have become more and more present in the online world. This has come with its own sets regulations which we have to abide by. So, existing in this environment, working, learning, doing business, communicating just like we do in real life make us citizens of this digital world.
As digital citizens, we have both rights and obligations and that is why learning more about the concept of digital citizenship is crucial.
Digital citizenship is the continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use. (Source)
Thus, we need to contribute to the online world with appropriate content that can create positive experiences for others and acknowledge the fact that our actions as digital citizens have consequences.
As far as any online environment is concerned, it should be a safe one in which everyone feels protected and not vulnerable. Moreover, it should promote a better understanding of all its implications and contribute to the process of educating users for long term positive outcomes. In addition, as digital citizens we have to create cooperative and interdependent relationships promoting understanding of one another.
In their book, Digital Citizenship in Schools, Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey talk about how technology influences the way people interact and the concept of digital citizenship in the classroom. The authors define nine elements of digital citizenship.
The 9 elements of Digital Citizenship
Since education is at the heart of any society, students are the ones that should be educated in using technology in a responsible manner, ensuring the safety of the online environment for generations to come. Consequently, the aspects of digital citizenship revolve around their usage of technology for educational purposes.
Some of these elements are related to students’ lives outside the walls of school, while others are directly related to how they use technology in school.
Although we live in a digital era, not everyone has access to technology. As teachers, we should be aware of the needs students have and try to ensure they can equally make use of online resources.
Due to improvements in schools worldwide, teachers can provide engaging lessons and motivate their students by including technology in class. More and more educators require from their students assignments which should be done online, but there is a downside to it: not all students can afford a computer/smartphone and access to the Internet. That is why educators need to provide alternatives suitable for every student's needs.
Read more: 4 Examples of the best digital access initiatives
Digital Commerce refers to selling and buying things online and the necessity to tackle safety issues while using money in the digital world. Technology is also used in class to showcase students the possible paths to take in their prospect careers opening their way to a future job. Understanding how e-commerce works is a must, both as possible customers and as potential entrepreneurs.
Communicating online has become so common and so frequent that students forget they are doing so in a virtual space. The need to know how and what to say is undeniable since miscommunication happens all the time even online. Nowadays though, the online has given a voice to anyone who needed it. They can express themselves freely and be themselves. This in turn requires a person to be empathetic and react appropriately online and offline.
Read more: Teaching empathy for better learning outcomes
Education is the key to everything. Being aware of others while online or offline is important for our personal growth contributing also to spreading awareness of the way we treat each other in either space.
Digital literacy also includes reaching the ability to differentiate between real and fake content which otherwise can have great negative impact over the lives of students and adults altogether. Students need to learn how to use their free will and decide what content is good for them and what they should avoid in order to lead a balanced life.
Technology comes with basic instructions of usage, but in the long run we should educate students to understand it better and become “digitally fluent”. This will shape their online behavior and they will respond positively rather than negatively to any content or comment. In this way, the online attitude is transposed into the real world and vice versa.
Focusing on implementing an online etiquette will have great results for the future generations who will have the adequate attitude in the online world that avoids conflict rather than entice it hidden behind their virtual profiles.
The online environment has room for both positive and negative interactions. And just like in real life, there are laws everyone should abide by. Digital law deals with the legal rights and restrictions governing technology use. Many online users are actually breaking the law, either knowing or not knowing, from identity theft to hacking into someone else's email to cyberbullying to downloading copyrighted music to using. To prevent any kind of online crime, no matter how serious, students as digital citizens need to know the law.
Read more: What every teacher must know about copyright for online lessons
Digital rights and responsibilities
Like in any real society, the online world has its regulations. That means that as a user one has rights, but also responsibilities. There are rules and policies to follow that imply the possibility of being held accountable for your actions and deeds in the online world.
The Internet can also be used for harming purposes and anyone using it needs protection structures against cyberbullying, for instance. Schools should approach this subject in class making the students take responsibility for their actions and also recognize and report any misconduct in the virtual environment.
Digital health and wellness
We live equally as much in the online world as in the real one, so the requirements and freedoms of the individual in real life have to be extended to the digital world. Everyone present in the online world has to contribute to the well-being of a person online helping others in need. Students should be taught to protect themselves and others from possible harm and alert an adult if it's the case. Making use of online resources is a plus, but one should be aware of the dangers that reside with this benefit.
Read more: 4 Steps towards digital wellness for students
Security in the online world is important since viruses and worms can go from system to system and affect the electronic devices we use. Precautions need to be taken to guarantee their safety. Moreover, when using devices in school or at home, students have to understand the implications of it and be aware of possible attacks. Teachers should also explain how to prevent them from happening and how to protect their devices. This is a necessary skill in today's digital world.
Read more: 5 Things to teach to develop cyber-savvy students
All in all
Digital Citizenship is the status that all online users should own including students. With this citizenship comes freedoms and responsibilities which should be understood in their entirety.
Similar to the real world citizens, online users have to follow the rules and try to make use of all its benefits safely. As digital citizens, students need to be aware of their behavior and how it may affect others, but also they should show empathy towards others avoiding conflict and calling out the ones that don't.