A digital citizen is a person who uses information technology (IT) to engage in society. According to Karen Mossberger, one of the authors of Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation, a digital citizen is a person who uses the internet on a daily basis. Furthermore, a super digital citizen understands the need to be responsible when using technology. Digital citizenship calls for the active participation of all digital community members to be respectful to others in the digital society. It’s important for students to become super digital citizens by learning the key principles and for teachers and parents to model online respect and safety within their curriculum.

The Principles of Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship is utilized to define ways to appropriately and responsibly use technology. There are three key principles and nine elements to developing this behavior:

1. Respect – Access, etiquette, and law
2. Educate – Literacy, commerce, and communication
3. Protect – Rights and responsibilities, health and wellness, and security

Digital Access

Access to technology is essential to digital citizenship. Due to socioeconomic status and location limitations, many students are left without digital access. Education centers are prioritizing the importance of providing internet connectivity, computers, and digital programs to close this gap.

Digital Etiquette

Digital etiquette is the expectation of how someone should behave, depending on the medium. Some mediums require more appropriate behavior compared to others (e.g., LinkedIn)

Digital Law

Digital law is enforcing website regulations. For example, illegal downloads, creating malware, identity theft, plagiarism, hacking, and cyberbullying are common vices.

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is possessing an understanding of how to operate various technological devices. For example, someone is deemed digitally literate if he or she understands how to search for something on a database versus a search engine. Most of the time, education centers are tasked with informing student digital literacy. 

Digital Commerce

Digital commerce is recognizing how money is spent and regulated online to assist the economy. It also involves understanding the benefits and dangers of buying online, like the use of credit cards.

Digital Communication

Online communication can be broad. This element helps users understand the various online communication channels, such as email, social media, instant messaging, communication apps, and more. Each medium is associated with a standard etiquette.

Digital Rights and Responsibilities

Digital rights and responsibilities involve the rights of digital citizens to possess privacy and practice freedom of speech.

Digital Health and Wellness

Online users must be aware of what their bodies are subjected to when using the internet. They must learn to balance their time online. Otherwise, students may encounter problems, such as eye strain, stress, and headaches.

Digital Security

Digital citizenship is about taking the necessary internet safety measures by incorporating secure passwords for accounts, backing up data, virus protection, etc.

The Responsibility of Teaching Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship should be a continuous subject both at school and at home. At school, educators should teach students about becoming digitally literate to maintain online privacy and security. The teacher’s responsibility is to incorporate digital citizenship elements into their lessons, provided they use technology with students. For example, evaluate the credibility of websites when teaching how to research and write a paper with citations. This steers students toward relevant information while identifying misleading or inaccurate data.

While at home, parents have a similar responsibility. They need to reinforce targeted discussions about the value of safeguarding sensitive personal data, bringing up topics like cyberbullying and how to avoid it, demonstrating safe web browsing, avoiding scams and cybercriminals, interacting respectfully with other web users, and sharing in ways that are not detrimental to reputation or future career prospects.

Creative Ways of Teaching Digital Citizenship

The modern classroom is filled with digital natives. The majority of students have known technology all their lives, but it does not mean they know how to use it appropriately. It is a skill that must be taught. Digital citizenship is rapidly becoming part of lesson plans, and it is one of the International Society for Technology in Education’s (ISTE) standards for learners. According to the 2019 census, six out of 10 teachers taught digital citizenship skills per month. As you work toward incorporating super digital citizenship, remember that the lessons must be relatable and within context to your students. Help them understand right from wrong, the consequences of actions, and the observation of online safety guidelines.

Knowing Right from Wrong

One critical lesson to be covered around digital citizenship is practicing proper “netiquette.” Netiquette guidelines grant students a cultural framework of appropriate behavior within the online community.

Understanding the Consequences

Digital citizenship lessons should deliberate on digital footprints. Students should learn how their actions or decisions that they make online have long-term consequences. It leaves a permanent footprint that impacts perception.

Online Safety Guidelines

A strong password is equivalent to a strong padlock to safely lock a door. By devoting adequate time to teach students how to create strong, secure passwords, you are encouraging them to protect their information from strangers. Assist them in strengthening their login details further by employing a two-step verification to ramp up their online security.

Always Playing Fair

Students learn habits observed by their teachers. Teach them not to copy content from websites without acknowledging the sources. Whether it is factual information, an image, or a citation, it is always best practice to give credit to the original author.

Choose Friends Wisely

Cyberbullying is evolving with the rapid growth of new technology and social media platforms. Young children can be easy targets for bullies. Teach students the appropriate actions to take when they sense that others are misbehaving. Discuss the inappropriate characteristics they are likely to meet online and how to establish online friend boundaries.

Super Tech

Online tools are meant to empower students, but they come with responsibilities. A super digital citizen is created by practicing safe and appropriate online. It is dependent on teachers and parents to model this behavior and to discover how to best instruct the next generation of digital citizens.