Does Digital Citizenship Matter?

It is a really thought-provoking question. As an educator, we mostly encounter some questions about necessary skills which have to be taught to students at schools. However, teaching online skills is a type of question that I have rarely heard to be addressed by teachers. Indeed, it is a crucial topic and skill, particularly for students who live in the twenty-first century which is the era of technology. Let’s see what Digital Citizenship means.

According to Simsek & Simsek (2013), the concept of the word citizenship refers to individuals’ ability to participate in a decision-making process within a society. Some skills are required in order to have appropriate social decision-making to access and process information. The forms of information have dramatically changed with the advancement of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the age of the digital world. As a result, it is crucial for citizens in a democratic society to possess skills such as accessing, interpreting, understanding, reconstructing, and sharing information (Aufderheide, 1993; Christ & Potter, 1998). Therefore, it is a crucial topic to be taught to students. Digital citizenship is divided into two opposite categories: Good Digital Citizenship and Bad Digital Citizenship. The former refers to showing students how to connect, empathize, respect each other, and have long-lasting relationships through digital tools. On the other hand, Bad Digital Citizenship means cyberbullying, harassment, irresponsibility, and lack of knowledge about the correct use of the Internet. Subsequently, educators should teach Good Digital Citizenship and its skills to students at schools to prevent bad consequences of being encountered of Bad Digital Citizenship.

Role of Schools

These days, the world that students are growing up and studying is increasingly technology-driven and interconnected. Students are constantly exposed to new ideas that can shape their online identity due to the widespread availability of the internet. Therefore, the role of schools in supporting students to develop their digital identity is crucial because they can help students how to present themselves online and manage it in a safe and responsible way.

Schools have to educate children about the potential consequences of their online activities. They must be informed that the Internet is a permanent record and their posts and online activities are shared not only with their friends and family members but also with strangers such as employers or mutual friends. So they must be mindful of what they post online and consider the impact of their post on their future. In addition, schools need to teach students to develop their digital identities positively. This includes teaching them to communicate respectfully and friendly and developing positive online communities so they can learn how to use technology and build a positive online reputation.

Another important factor that schools have an important role in is helping students to learn how they can protect their online privacy and security. For instance, giving information about the importance of strong passwords, avoiding phishing scams, and being cautious and responsible when sharing personal information online. Moreover, they have to teach students how to develop their critical thinking skills to recognize accurate information from inaccurate data. So they need to know how to evaluate the information.

Dr. Alec Couros mentioned in his class that evaluating information has 5 main steps including Looking for Previous Work, Going Upstream (to the source), Reading Laterally (assessing the value of the source), Circling Back, and Checking Your Emotions.

To sum it up, schools play a critical role in teaching students how to develop their digital identity and educate them about the risks and rewards of their online presence and how to protect themselves in this permanent and massive world.

Role of Teachers

Teachers can play an essential role to inform students about digital citizenship. They can incorporate it into their lesson plans and classroom activities. For instance, some lessons about digital citizenship can be incorporated into the curriculum including some topics about empathy, safety, online privacy and etiquette, etc. These lessons can be integrated into other subjects such as History, Math, or English. Another activity is using role-playing exercises. Teachers and students can think of some current issues in the world of technology such as cyberbullying and act out scenarios in which they have to consider all aspects, share their ideas, and make a decision about what information should be shared.

Teachers can help students to understand the importance of ethical decision-making in the online world. They can discuss the negative effects of plagiarism, cyberbullying, and spreading false information and rumors. Teachers can also encourage students to develop positive online communities by encouraging them to participate in online forums and virtual communities. Modeling good digital citizenship is important as well. Having and knowing a good model is more informative than just having lessons and lectures about the topic. Therefore, teachers have to use technology in the classroom to help students develop their digital literacy skills and understand the role of technology in their lives then we will have responsible digital citizens who are able to navigate the digital world with confidence.

Role of Parents

Parents also play a crucial role in developing their children’s digital identities and citizenship. There are many ways that parents can help them. The most important one is to educate themselves. First and foremost, parents must understand what the digital world is in order to support and educate their children. This aim is achievable by attending different workshops, reading books and articles, or taking part in classes related to educational technology to stay up-to-date in this field. Next, they can set clear rules and guidelines for their children’s online behavior such as using technology in a responsive way, not sharing personal information, etc. Children are children. Its meaning is simple. They are not mature so, in my opinion, parents should monitor their children’s online activities indirectly including their social media accounts to be confident that they use the Internet and technology in a safe and positive way. Finally, they have to talk about digital citizenship to their children and be a positive good role model for them.

Suggested Reading Material

The Handbook of Open, Distance, and Digital Education is a really informative source for schools, teachers, and parents. There are various units about digital citizenship, identity, and literacy.


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3 Responses to Does Digital Citizenship Matter?

  1. Janeen Clark says:

    Thanks for your post, Rokhserah. I appreciate your thoughts regarding the shared responsibilities of parents and schools regarding teaching digital responsibility. I do like the idea of incorporating the lessons into all subject areas – math, literacy, etc., rather than simply teaching digital citizenship as a topic only on its own. I think the difficult element for teachers as well, is that so much of this is teaching morals and values as well — sometimes this becomes tricky as we navigate the tension between our own beliefs and values, and the values of our students and their families.

  2. Catrina Hunter says:

    Hi Rokhserah. Thanks for your informative post. I also watched the Ted Talk you shared about raising digital citizens and really enjoyed hearing the speaker’s perspective about how we, as parents and teachers, can do this. The idea that our kids/students are going to mess up online and will need our support in navigating those missteps was great advice. She also advised that creating social media accounts and silently following along online with your kids is a good way to help them create a digital identity they can be proud of. Her talk supports the view that teaching young people about digital citizenship is a shared responsibility; consequently, it’s a topic I know I am will spend more time focusing on with the students I teach.

  3. Bart Mihalicz says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the points you raised Roksareh. It is imperative for schools to educate children about the potential consequences of their online activities and to help them develop positive digital identities while also protecting their online privacy and security. As educators, we have a responsibility to incorporate digital citizenship into our lesson plans and classroom activities and model good digital citizenship ourselves. It’s not just up to schools though; parents also have a role to play. They should educate themselves about the digital world, set clear rules and guidelines for their children’s online behavior, and talk about digital citizenship with their children while monitoring their online activities. However, we must also recognize that there are not always clear-cut right and wrong answers when it comes to digital citizenship. Students need to learn how to navigate the digital world in a safe, responsible, and ethical manner, and we should all strive to do our part in ensuring that happens.

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