What is digital citizenship? From the student perspective the best way to define digital citizenship is to describe it as the ability to use available technology and the Internet for the purpose of studying. Since early1990s internet technology has gradually but swiftly been integrating into multiple areas of our lives. Nowadays, we cannot simply imagine life without internet access. Digital world is omnipresent, whether we are at work, school or at home we have the privilege to access to information right here and right there.
Online schooling, internet banking, remote working, communicating with friends and family, entertainment-reading of e-books, online magazines and newspapers, online shopping, getting news and checking weather report, driving with online maps, buying tickets to movies, theaters, or concerts, sending greetings and invitations, building social and professional networks, listening music, watching movies, the list has no end (Pew Research Center, 2004). The Internet plays a substantial role in our daily routines. Even though old-fashioned habits are still preeminent, with the speed of current technological progress and growing needs for everything being accessible easily and in no time, these roles are surely going to change in the future.
Technology and our everyday lives
Developing technology has a tremendous influence on learning processes-how, what and when people educate. This grew hugely in importance during pandemic when all of us has simply been forced to work or study from our homes. During that time our reality has changed and to many surfing the web took over earlier habits, duties and responsibilities. This was the case of education, when out of a sudden everything needed to move to the digital world of an online classroom. With time we all got used to new reality, missing more or less the pre-pandemic world. As a result, carelessly we surf the internet not being fully aware of how to keep balance and develop a healthy relationship with digital media.
This is especially applicable to younger learners, not to mention children. Sadly, as adults we are not providing too good example to the younger generations. Let us be honest, to many of us telephone especially (with its main function being accessing the Internet) became almost an integral part of our body that we only put away during the night time. Do we even leave home without a telephone in our hand, pocket or bag? No matter how you call it, but we are addicted to checking news, mails, social media, taking photos, recording movies to show them to the rest of the world. This earned a proper medical diagnosis – a fear of missing out syndrome.
The digital citizenship however is not about the reasons and their rightness or lack of rightness behind using the Internet but about how to use it.
Digital citizenship and education
In the context of education, digital citizenship relates to screen time usage, internet safety, plagiarism, legal aspects of digital properties or digital etiquette and many more. In other words, it is about how to navigate in digital world safely and responsibly (Waterford.org, 2019). As simply and straightforward it may sound, many of us fail to pay enough attention to the fact that with growing technological advancements, the risk of abuse increases too.
This is why more significance should be paid to the aspect of technology in education. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) lists nine elements of digital citizenship helping students in the most crucial factor in their education – safe and well-informed navigating through online resources (Sociallysavvy.com).
Digital access - ability to connect with others and access information using technology. This is not restricted only to instructing students on how to find valid and safe information but also on helping less privileged learners to use the technology to increase their digital access.
Digital etiquette – concerns respectful and avoidance of inappropriate behavior such as cyberbullying or harassment and creating respectful digital engagement. This is especially Important while discussing more controversial topics, where opinions may differ a lot and students can easily emotionally engage in the discussions (Madden, 2022).
Digital commerce – refers to becoming a better consumer and selling and buying electronically.
Digital rights and responsibilities – discuss privileges that all students have while using the Internet, like freedom of speech, equal treatment or privacy respect. Students should be made aware that they hold moral or legal responsibility for their comments and tone of speech.
Digital literacy – refers to equaling student technological ability in accessing information online, use of equipment, or any other actions helping to diminish gaps in digital literacy. It also refers to building a safe and inclusive digital environment encouraging collaboration and an empathetic approach to discussion as well as shifting focus to increase sensitivity for users with digital fatigue (Madden, 2022).
Digital law – is about the rules or guidelines set within an organization for using the Internet such as for example plagiarism prevention, or not using telephones during les time.
Digital communication – ability to communicate between students in a safe and effective way. This applies to addressing problematic comments that should never be ignored, and require providing feedback on ideas, not individuals. The difficult aspect is finding a balance between offering guidance but not discouraging students from voicing their opinions (Madden, 2022).
Digital health and wellness – refer to psychological and physical health and balance while using the Internet. This may include knowledge on correct sitting, controlling screen time, taking breaks while being online.
Digital security – this involves knowledge on how to stay technically safe online i.e. avoid viruses, scams, protecting privacy online.
Being able to train students on how to become a good digital citizen thus develop healthy practices on the internet, results in creating a better space for interaction for each user as well as dismissing inappropriate and unwanted behaviors. The more awareness we are able to bring, the better confidence and understanding internet users represent (Waterford.org).
Practicing digital citizenship in class
There are multiple ways of familiarizing students with how to become a good digital citizen. This should come from encouraging to consider some of the most important aspects including digital communities, the power of own impact, developing communication skills and building social identity.
Digital community: As suggested by Madden (2022) students should be repeatedly reminded about the diversity of university communities they belong to. This means that focus should be on creating safe, encouraging environment free of assumptions and generalizations about any of social groups.
Own impact: Consideration of language and intentions should be stressed. Madden (2022) advocates making students aware of the difference between intent and impact to diminish unnecessary stress and conflict situations.
Communication skills: Working on developing professional communication skills will serve students in the future. Learning and practicing on how to respectfully and professionally engage in discussions with fellow students in digital environment will benefit in the future once students are career ready.
Building social identity: Next to developing professional communication skills, students can learn how to build their own social identity with the purpose of future growing their professional online network and with time and more expertise reaching to right audiences on social media (Socialsavvy, 2022).
Good digital citizenship is about continuous developing and encouraging norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use. It is also about creating and maintaining safe digital spaces, avoiding misusing and abusing technology or any activities constituting misconduct. With technology acceleration, growing number of Internet users and lowering age when technology usage is being granted to younger generations we should all promote the concept of digital citizenship.
Madden, V. (2022) Times Higher Education, Digital citizenship: creating safe and inclusive online learning spaces. Available on: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/digital-citizenship-creating-safe-and-inclusive-online-learning-spaces (accessed 4 July 2022).
Pew Research Center (2004) The Internet and Daily Life. Available on: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2004/08/11/the-internet-and-daily-life/ (accessed 4 July 2022).
Pew Research Center (2004) 10 Popular Educational Trends and What You Need to Know. Available on: https://www.waterford.org/education/educational-trends-for-teachers/ (accessed 4 July 2022).
Sociallysavvy (2022) The Socially Savvy Digital Citizen. Available on: https://www.sociallysavvy.com/news/the-socially-savvy-digital-citizen (accessed 4 July 2022).
Waterford.org (2019) How to Teach Your Students the 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship. Available on: https://www.waterford.org/education/digital-citizenship-activities-and-tips/ (accessed 4 July 2022).