A better Digital Citizenship: Educating, Protecting & Building
A Digital Citizen or Digital Native is any person who uses Information Technology to engage in society. Karen Mossberger (author: Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation) explains digital citizens as "those who use the internet regularly and effectively". The word “regularly and effectively” is in itself is a broad term. How an internet user can be defined as a regular user and how the effectiveness of a user can be decided is a matter of broad discussion?
Just like a person who is having the citizenship of a country have to abide by the law and rules of that country’s constitutions, likewise, a digital citizen also has to follow some set of rules, laws, abide by some moral obligations and social ethics while using services available on the internet. An internet user with a comprehensive understanding of information technology blend with appropriate and responsible behaviour with other internet users could be one of the defining terms of Karen Mossbergers’ digital citizens’ explanation.
Digital citizenship can be defined as a kind of citizenship where people can participate in society through the internet. The term digital natives or digital citizens bring almost everyone under its umbrella i.e. whosoever use the internet to perform their daily work.
A student (for instance) is a digital citizen as it uses EDRP services on the internet to perform its academic duties. Student’s at a very young age i.e from elementary and middle level, they are exposed to an endless amount of content and information they can imagine in their hand. They have to navigate through the physical as well as the digital world at the same time. So they are considered to be one of the most vulnerable groups of digital citizens among all, therefore more attention and time is needed while guiding them through the path of digital literacy and responsibilities.
At the same time, exposer to technology is necessary for today’s students and early exposer will give them a leg up in their future career. More and more jobs in the future will be technology-centric and IT-based. So for being a good and responsible citizen, the lessons of discipline and behaviour that we were taught for our physical world, a similar lesson must also be given for the digital world. This will guide them to become safe, honest and respectful to other online users.
In order to achieve the objective of appropriate and responsible use of technology among users or students/children (as in this case), Mark Ribble developed three core principles: Respect, Educate and Protect.
Respect - With this element, it refers to legitimate access, the laws that are implemented and polite and respectful behaviour to other digital users.
Educate - With this element, it refers to educate the basics of communication and literacy that are needed for appropriate use of the digital world.
Protect - With the elements of security, personal rights and physical and mental wellness that are used to remain safe in the digital and non-digital world.
These are the elements made to guide students both in their online and real-life as a contributing citizen. Mark Ribble in his book “Digital Citizenship in Schools” laid out a framework for the educators of all subject areas which can be used to teach the basics of digital citizenship.
Here are summarised points from the book that will give an overview to educate over the concept of digital citizenship derived from the above 3 core principles discussed in his book.
Digital access: Giving respect to other digital citizens by advocating for equal digital right. This is the beginning of where the concept of digital citizenship starts. Equal rights are crucial to inculcate the sense of oneness among citizens.
Digital etiquette: We are bind with some sort of social responsibility towards the people of society we are living with. Rules and policies aren’t enough, Teaching how to behave and inculcating a sense of respect for others is essential, just like we do in the physical world.
Digital law: Making people familiar with the laws of digital property and providing a proper understanding of laws that bind and govern the digital world is important.
These basic points are important to generate a sense of respect among students as future digital citizens.
Digital communication: Students need to Understanding and learn the right tool among other communication options for their audience in order to make proper and complete communication.
Digital literacy: Creating the ability among the students to find, evaluate and study the digital material is called digital literacy. Its motto is to let the user know how they can use tools available in the digital world more effectively.
Digital commerce: Making student educated enough on how to be an effective consumer in a digital economy while using digital commerce services.
These basic points are important to generate an educated and well-informed present and future digital citizen.
Students must be literate enough to know and understand their basic digital rights and privacy. He/she must also know how to safeguard their personal information by controlling privacy settings. Students must have knowledge of when to unplug from the digital world and the capacity of making informed decisions to prioritize their time and activity. Letting them understand how to protect their own personal data is the most important thing among all.
Students should be encouraged to utilize technology with responsibility. They should know the ethical meaning of digital citizenship. Education on harmful viruses and other malware should be given to protect them from the potential breach of personal information and data. A student can be a successful digital citizen with the help of educators, parents, and school counsellors.