Bryan likes to tell his children – unlike a diamond, what you do on the internet remains intact forever.

The web doesn’t care – it’ll keep track of your actions, both good and bad. Whatever you do online is available for the world to see.

Ask your children: What is the digital legacy you will leave behind? What are you doing online today that will impact your future?  Are you a good digital citizen?

Every decision you make, no matter how insignificant, has repercussions. If you decide not to tie your shoelaces, you can trip, fall, and hurt yourself. If you decide to do the opposite, however, you’ll safely run, skip and jump.

Parents and teachers can teach children and students how to behave online. By teaching the children good digital citizenship, you are keeping your children safe and helping them build an online presence they’ll be proud of…even at the age of 80.

9 Elements of Digital Citizenship

While there are varying definitions that may have more or less general categories, I like to categorize digital citizenship as having 9 elements.

1 – Digital Access

Digital access is full electronic participation in society.

Although statistics show that 98% of 18-24-year-old Americans are internet users, it doesn’t mean they have access at home. They may have the devices, but they’re not connected.

According to Pew Research Center, in 2021 7% of Americans don’t use the internet. Households with incomes of less than $30,000 per annum, people over the age of 65, people with less than high school education and who live in rural areas often don’t have internet access. They can’t afford it, don’t see the need for it, or digital access is not available to them.

This number has been moving steadily down for years. While there are students at school who can’t do their homework using the internet at home, only 1% of people under the age of 29 say they don’t have access to the internet.

This access may be limited to school time, weekends or an hour during the week. These kids are forced to come to school early, stay late or do their homework over weekends using the school’s internet.

Some children may have internet available at home, but their special needs aren’t catered for. Visually impaired students rely on what they hear while hearing impaired on what they see. When creating content online, teachers should consider creating descriptive narratives in audio and text so that all students can follow the content. It will overcome the obstacle where these students don’t have the necessary tools to assist them with their special need.

Digital citizens realize that access to digital technology should be available to everyone. Unfortunately, digital access is limited or denied to some. A good digital citizen works toward the goal of providing technology access to all.

2 – Digital Commerce

It seems like everyone became exposed to digital commerce/online shopping during the 2020-21 “experience”.

Buying and selling everyday goods like clothes, skincare products, toys, books, food, and electronic devices, is available to anyone and everyone with internet access. Globally 2.14 billion people shopped online in 2021. The U.S. is one of the leading online retail markets worldwide. Projection expects that by the end of 2025, 291.2 million U.S. internet users will purchase at least one item online.

Although most electronic buying and selling of goods are legitimate, there are also illegal transactions and downloads online. The repercussions of spending money impulsively online are more than money spent on unnecessary items. It creates opportunities for identity theft and scams.

Teach children safety precautions when shopping online and how to discern as online customers.
* Check for the key or padlock symbol that indicates the site is secure. The ‘s’ in https as opposed to http, also indicates a secure site.
* Never send credit card numbers or personal information by email or social media.
* Don’t use someone else’s credit card when purchasing online.
* Have secure passwords for shopping accounts and your email. Thieves can illegally shop on your account by hacking into your email account.
* Make sure free download sites for goods like music are legal. Computer viruses are often downloaded along with illegal ‘free’ downloads.
* Research first what you want to purchase and then find a safe shopping site to buy the item.

Digital budgeting apps are great tools to teach children how to manage money in our cashless society. Parents can teach children stewardship and at the same time control how they spend and save their pocket money.

Good digital citizenship requires self-control when buying online as well as safety measures to keep credit card and personal information safe. Buying and selling goods online makes you part of the digital commerce community.

3 – Digital Communication

Digital communication is an electronic exchange of information.

Cell phones, emails, instant messaging, texting…the digital communication options are endless. The ease of exchanging information electronically with anyone at any time is astounding. According to Statista, more than 4 billion people are active on the internet whereas 3.3 billion communicate using social media.

Saying the ‘wrong thing’ when speaking face-to-face with someone is easier rectified than an ‘electronic misunderstanding.’ An emotional post published on a social media platform is there for the world to see. By the time you regret your comment, enough people have already read how you’ve lashed out at someone. It’s easier to work things out face-to-face than online where the whole world is watching. Deleted messages didn’t disappear but stored on a server somewhere. Your post is still in cyberspace.

Cell phones help parents keep track of their children. Parents know they can get hold of their children and their children can phone or text a parent when there is a need. It’s a tool to help keep children safe, but it is also a tool that causes distractions and other behavioral problems.

Phone calls, texting, and social media platforms cause addictive behavior. Children are constantly texting and messaging instead of focusing in class. Instead of having real live conversations, they are texting friends while sitting in the company of others.

Teachers and parents should teach children how to behave appropriately with digital communications.

  • Good digital citizens are considerate when and how they use digital communication tools.
  • They think before they publish something and are mindful who may read the message.
  • They aren’t driven by the need to respond immediately to a text message while in the company of others.
  • Good digital citizens understand electronic relaying of information is a tool used with discretion and at appropriate times.

Digital communication is powerful when used correctly. Teachers can use instant messaging, blog posts and Facebook groups to keep parents informed of school activities. Digital technologies enhance classroom activities and teach appropriate digital communication behavior to students at the same time.

4 – Digital Literacy

Digital literacy is more than reading and writing online. It requires you to learn and understand technology and how to use it.

Digital literacy is teaching and learning about technology and its use

To successfully use something, you need to know how it works. Everybody knows how to make a phone call but how many people send and receive emails on their smart phones? How many use the flashlight and other features of the smart phone?

Digital literacy is more than reading and writing online. It requires you to learn and understand technology and how to use it. With constant new technologies becoming available, this may seem daunting to most. Teachers should grasp the full extent of how the technologies used in the classroom work. Their digital literacy should be at a high enough standard to use the technology and to teach the students how to use it.

New technologies create opportunities to learn in new and innovative ways. Teachers are preparing students for jobs that aren’t in existence yet. Learning about technology will assist both teachers and students preparing for the future.

One of the easiest ways to become digital literate is for teachers to provide resources available on digital platforms. It forces the teachers to learn and use blog posts, podcasts, webinars, and story boarding, for example. Meanwhile, the students are educationally stimulated and won’t choose alternative distant learning programs.

By mixing classroom lessons with online courses, allow students to utilize various digital technologies. Teachers can create online content students can access outside of the classroom. Allowing students to use digital technologies for homework projects teaches them digital literacy.

Teachers should encourage creative usage of digital technology. It stimulates students to take part in the learning process and to learn new uses for the specific digital tool.

5 – Digital Etiquette

Digital etiquette is electronic standards of conduct or procedure

Children learn by watching others. Many teachers and parents also learn digital technology by watching how others use it. Often the adults are learning at the same time as the children. Instead of teaching the children digital etiquette they are learning the correct standards of procedures and conduct.

Unfortunately, digital etiquette is often neglected because the focus is on learning how to use the electronic technology. Often inappropriate behavior draws the attention to the necessity of teaching appropriate conduct.

When inappropriate behavior is observed, many feel uncomfortable in addressing the situation. Good digital citizenship means setting the example by following the rules and standards of digital etiquette. If unsure what is appropriate behavior, treat people with the same politeness and respect you would like to be treated. Consider if you would behave the same way if the person were standing in front of you with a crowd of spectators.

Teaching digital etiquette to students may protect them against cyberbullying. By knowing what is appropriate behavior, it is easier to be good digital citizens. Children who are taught digital etiquette are less likely to become cyberbullies or to find themselves in a situation where they are bullied.

Social network sites have rules explaining the appropriate usage of the site. Become familiar with the rules and what is expected of you before you start using the site. Often people behave inappropriately because they didn’t familiarize themselves with the specific chat room, group, or site’s rules of conduct.

Digital etiquette motivates and inspires. Avoid bad and inflammatory language, spamming friends with constant request to like and share, and mixing your work and private life.

6 – Digital Law

Digital law is electronic responsibility for actions and deeds

Digital law is being responsible online; it’s about electronic ethics. Stealing or damaging someone’s physical property is unlawful; the same applies online. Copyright laws protect digital intellectual property.

Copyright law is a safety measure that gives people automatically copyright on their creations. The © symbol is a reminder of that copyright. The absence of the copyright symbol doesn’t mean the content is not legally protected.

You don’t have to be a career criminal to act illegally online. Searching, downloading, and sharing are the strengths of using the internet. It is also the weakness where many users act unlawfully without realizing it. Your ignorance won’t safeguard you against the repercussions, penalties, and criminal and civil legal actions that may follow.

The 4 most common irresponsible and criminal actions are:

  • Illegal downloads of music, movies, and games. Make sure sites that offer ‘free’ downloads own the content offered or have legal permission.
  • Plagiarizing content is unethical and sometimes illegal. If you want to use someone else’s content, acknowledge the source. Place the content in quotation marks.
  • Piracy is illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted content like music, movies, and books. Although you bought the content, copyright laws forbid you to share it without authorized permission.
  • Registering as a member of an illegal file sharing site makes you vulnerable to cybercrime. The music industry is campaigning against these illegal activities. According to Massachusetts Attorney General, peer-to-peer networks (Limwire, Ares, BitTorrent, Morpheus, and Gnutella), provide the means of requesting and receiving illegal music and software packages from other users. With your permission, these sites gain access to your computer to upload and download illegal requests. Computer viruses are downloaded similarly.

7 – Digital Rights and Responsibilities

Digital rights and responsibilities are those freedoms and expectations extended to everyone in a digital world

Each country has a bill of rights, a constitution or similar laws that protect the citizens of that country. In exchange, there is certain responsible behavior expected from its citizens. The digital world functions the same. Digital citizenship means having certain digital rights and following digital responsibilities.

Every digital technology user has the right to post and publish content online for others to appreciate. This freedom includes protection of your content. Digital citizens acknowledge the digital rights of the person who posted the specific content. Good digital citizens behave responsibly with this content and don’t steal it, damage it, sabotage it, and doesn’t use it to threaten, bully or harass the person.

Parents and teachers protect children with guidelines and boundaries at school and home. The same applies to digital citizenship. Teach students how to use digital technology legally, safely, and responsibly. Help them understand their digital rights. Help them understand what is responsible behavior online.

Here are some digital rights and responsibilities:

  • The right to privacy and respecting the privacy rights of someone else.
  • Use the information found online ethically and appropriately.
  • Refrain from texting during tests and certain classroom assignments; it is cheating.
  • Follow the school’s AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) when using digital technology. Websites and networks also have AUPs for their sites.

8 – Digital Health and Wellness

Digital health and wellness are physical and psychological well-being in a digital world

Child obesity has increased the past few years globally. Lack of exercise is a contributing factor. Television, video games, and digital technology teach children sedentary lifestyles. Instead of running and playing outside getting a healthy dose of fresh air and sunlight, the children are indoors in front of the computer, television or tablet.

Blue light emitted from electronic devices intervenes with your sleep cycle. The body is created to react to light. During daytime, sunlight, the natural blue light, stimulates the body’s energy levels, temperaments, attention span, and memory. The absence of light signals the body to rest, recuperate, restore and to create new cells. The artificial blue lights from electronic devices trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime. Sleep is interrupted, and the body doesn’t produce enough growth hormones, energy or new cells to function properly.

A survey by HMC showed that 45% of students check their cellphones after bedtime. Almost all 2,750 participants admitted using social media after bedtime, 75% listen to music, and 23% check their cellphones at least 10 times during the night. The survey showed that 68% of teens admitted cellphone usage at night affected their schoolwork.

Digital health is looking after your physical body. Eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and poor body posture are adverse health effects on your body. Teach children from a young age to have a good posture and to protect their eyes from over exposure.

An estimated 210 million users globally suffer from internet and social media addiction. This survey was done in 2017 – before TikTok entered the stage.

I guarantee it is MUCH higher now.

Digital health and wellness are vital for good digital citizenship. Teach children to limit usage of digital technology in bedrooms.

9 – Digital Security

Digital security is electronic precautions to guarantee safety

If you want to enjoy the many benefits of digital citizenship, certain digital safety measures must be taken. You lock your front door when you leave the house. You don’t leave your wallet or purse lying around in a public area. There are certain standard safety measures citizens apply to protect themselves and their property.

Digital security requires you to safeguard yourself and your electronic devices: hardware, and software. It means regular backups of hard drives, up-to-date virus protection on your computer, encrypted wireless networks, active firewalls when connected to the internet and keeping software up to date.

Teach children how to safeguard their identity online. They shouldn’t share usernames and passwords online or with friends. They should be careful of ‘friendly’ strangers online. Just like they wouldn’t get into a stranger’s car, they should be weary of befriending anyone online. Personal security also means not clicking on links in emails that require sensitive information.

For students to have the freedom of digital citizenship, they should be taught how to guarantee their safety. It is the responsibility of teachers and parents to help keep children safe.

We Owe It To Our Kids To Teach Them

Decisions have a lasting impact. How much more when your decision is made online where it can’t be erased. A small act on the web spreads instantaneously worldwide. You can’t take it back. It’s there…forever…It’s there for your friends to see but also strangers who can harm you. Your parents have access, so does your teachers, your leaders, and even your children and grandchildren one day…

A responsible digital citizen will leave a lasting impression to be proud of…something you’d want your boss, your friends, your grandchildren to see.

Digital citizenship is as important in 2024 as it was a few years ago and will be in the future. Technology may become outdated and replaced by newer inventions. The way people use digital technology may change, but the 9 elements of digital citizenship will always be there. These elements are the same basic requirements for any good citizen; it’s just practically adapted for the online digital world.

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