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Definition

digital citizenship

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Digital citizenship is the responsible use of technology and etiquette pertaining to an online presence. This includes behaviors and responses to others within a digital community in which one is a member. Digital citizenship typically refers to those who use the internet regularly and is part of one or more online communities.

The notion of digital citizenship reflects the recognition that the identity a person expresses online -- including habits and actions -- will affect forums, platforms, services, social networks and their members. The concept is used to teach people about the appropriate uses of technology and the internet (See: netizen).

Much as the notion of good citizenship depends on treating people and places with respect, digital citizenship extends this responsibility and expectation to the digital world. Good digital citizenship may include respectful communication, respecting the privacy of others, keeping open minds, giving helpful information or giving constructive feedback. Similarly, to the quality of the experience of people within a real-world community, the quality of a digital community hinges not just on the place the community is in but also its members’ effects on each other within the community. What would be seen as bad digital citizenship can be seen as cyber bullying, irrigating arguments or spreading false information.

Teaching

Digital citizenship is seen to many as an important concept to teach young students. To help teach digital citizenship, teachers should focus on subjects such as teaching students how the internet works, how to properly understand user data, all around digital literacy and empathy. Teachers should also aid students in how to ensure any devices are up to date and secure.

This video serves as a good general example of how to cover digital citizenship. 

Anonymity

While having the ability to stay anonymous on the internet provides many of the great pros to the internet, such as freedom of speech or the ability to be more self-expressive, that same anonymity can lead to cyberbullying. The potential tracking of individuals and ranking of their desirability is one of the less appreciated aspects of digital citizenship. It might be argued that this is only a measure for ensuring the responsible behavior of citizens, but it can be used as a system of control that makes political dissidence near impossible and enables fascism. China, for example, implements a social ranking score upon which citizens’ actions both online and in the real world. It has been the case that a Chinese citizen was refused entry to public transport and even groceries after being ranked undesirably for being a reporter.

This was last updated in December 2019

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