Digital Citizenship. What is it?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

According to an article a summary taken from Ribble, Bailey, and Ross (2004) on, digital citizenship is defined as “the continuously developing norms of appropriate, responsible, and empowered technology use”. On the other hand, Dr. Josie Ahlquist defines digital citizenship as “responsible technology use” in its simplest form (Ahlquist, 2014). I believe that digital citizenship embodies all actions when using any technology — to make rational and positive decisions in every aspect of digital interaction and use.

When I first thought of digital citizenship, I thought that it just embodied being on the internet. Similar to how someone is born in a county and they are given citizenship for being there, rather than if they are good or bad people. Being a digital citizen is so much more complex than I had originally thought and constitutes a variety of different principles and values. However, to start off — what cannot be considered digital citizenship?: cyberbullying, hateful and inappropriate content, sharing revealing information and content that can cause harm and more (Ottesen, 2018).

This being said, how does this differ from digital literacy? First off, there are nine key elements to digital citizenship: digital access, digital commerce, digital communication and collaboration, digital etiquette, digital fluency, digital welfare, digital law, digital responsibility, and digital privacy and security (Deye, 2017). Digital literacy is a key aspect to digital literacy and falls under the broader umbrella of digital citizenship. Digital literacy is more often thought of as the fluency of using digital tools, similar to fluency as an aspect of the nine key elements. In the Digital Citizenship Toolkit by Brown (2021), a quote that stuck out to me is that digital literacy is a mastering of ideas, not just “keystrokes”. This means that digital literacy focuses more on the deeper meanings of using technologies, rather than focusing on technical skills of using a technology device.

There are a multitude of ways that digital citizenship can be fostered among adults and educators. However, good information and habits begin at a young age. For educators, it is important to teach basic internet safety and skills. As years pass, I can only imagine that this will become more important in the generations coming. With technology constantly changing and becoming outdated, it is important that life-long learners take initiative at becoming better digital citizens (Ottesen, 2018). International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) explains four aspects of digital citizenship in education: “Using technology to make your community better, engaging respectfully online with people who have different beliefs than you, using technology to make your voice heard by public leaders and to shape public policy and determining the validity of online sources of information” (ISTE, 2021). Reflecting on my own digital citizenship, I can definitely do better in the future with privacy settings, and other aspects. I have the rest of my life to explore these parameters.



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