10 elements of digital citizenship and why it takes more than a week to teach them

10 elements of digital citizenship and why it takes more than a week to teach them

Digital Citizenship Week is October 16-20, according to some websites, like Common Sense Media. Other sites said it was back in September. Another says it’s in February and it’s just a day. At first, I was a bit confused. And, I admit, a little frustrated.

Then I realized that the lack of agreed upon date is actually wildly appropriate. Digital citizenship isn’t something that can be taught in a day, or a week.

That’s why I’ve done dozens and dozens of posts, all on different aspects of digital citizenship, from thinking before posting to privacy policies to having strong passwords to exploring all kinds of apps to interviews with online safety experts. Much of the work of raising tweens and teens is synonymous with teaching digital citizenship.

Teaching kids to be good digital citizens is an important and often daunting undertaking and it is an ongoing effort. Technology and the online world are always changing, and that means there is always something new to discuss. Also, adolescents have really short attention spans.

Dictionary.com defines “digital citizen” as “a person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the Internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities.” (Merriam-Webster has not yet added the term “digital citizen” or “digital citizenship.”) 

That’s a pretty broad umbrella. One good place to start figuring out just what it means for you and your family is by asking your kids what they think are the important elements of digital citizenship.

It’s a complex topic, to be sure. Off the top of my head, I think good citizenship encompasses the following:

  • respecting the power of the internet and understanding that with power comes responsibility;
  • knowing how to use the internet in positive ways that are beneficial to the individual, others, and society at large;
  • being kind and polite online and knowing what to do when receiving harassing messages;
  • awareness of one’s digital footprint and that what happens online can in fact last forever;
  • possessing the ability to protect one’s privacy, recognition of the importance of protecting other’s privacy, and keeping sensitive information private;
  • having media literacy skills and an ability to think critically about information shared online;
  • recognition that it’s hard if not impossible to know all there is to know about the online world and being comfortable with asking for help;
  • being responsible, including understanding how to use technology ethically and giving credit whenever appropriate;
  • understanding when to take a conversation offline and handle topics face-to-face; and
  • knowing what healthy usage looks like and the ability to put the devices down on occasion.

Also, while there are of course technical aspects to good digital citizenship, in the vast majority of situations, it’s about just doing the right thing. As Jimmy Cricket says, “Always let your conscience be your guide.”

See what your kids say, and let me know what you would add to this list or how you would define digital citizenship.

You May Also Like: A letter to my 13-year-old daughter about being safe and kind online

Prior Post: Helpful, free resources for teaching kids about media literacy

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Top 10 elements of digital citizenship that tweens and teens need to know

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