Being a good digital citizen involves a set of vital skills that everyone, from parents to teachers to children, needs to have in order to use technology appropriately. It’s important to equip technology users of all ages with knowledge about digital citizenship, including information about topics such as how to keep yourself safe online and how to avoid being scammed or otherwise taken in by bad information. In addition, people need to be educated about the proper standards of behavior online, as this is a key element in preventing inappropriate or even criminal acts.

The issue of digital citizenship has been getting more attention around the globe, and this domain goes by many names, such as digital wellness or digital ethics, but all of these terms describe how we should act when we’re online and what we should be teaching to the next generation. The foundations of good digital citizenship deal with eight major areas.

  1. Internet Safety: Protecting your online privacy is a fundamental part of staying safe on the Internet. A big part of this is being able to tell when someone else’s behavior is inappropriate and taking the necessary action to stop it. For instance, while someone you interact with online might seem nice at first, it’s important to be wary at all times and trust your instincts: If something just doesn’t feel right, pull back from the situation.
  2. Privacy and Security: It’s vital for everyone, especially children and teens, to learn early on who they can trust with their information on the Internet. While there are security programs and privacy settings to be aware of, which can help block things like computer viruses and tracking cookies and protect your online privacy, you don’t need a master’s in cybersecurity to keep yourself or your family safe. It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to create a very strong password for any accounts you have online. Starting from an early age, kids can learn about how important it is to ask for permission before creating an account or downloading a file, for example. By developing skills pertaining to privacy and safety on the Internet, kids can lay a strong foundation for their rest of their digital lives.
  3. Relationships and Communication: When kids connect with other people online, it can undoubtedly affect the way they behave. Because they’re behind a screen, they can feel less pressure and feel more removed from potential consequences. When they are anonymous online, people tend to be more irresponsible, cruel, and unethical. Therefore, it’s important for kids to follow a code of conduct when using the Internet and treat it as if they’re interacting with others in the real world. Not only should people be good citizens in reality, but they should be digitally as well.
  4. Cyberbullying and Digital Drama: Cyberbullying remains a very big issue in today’s digital society, so it’s important to teach younger people how to behave politely online as well as how to respond if they become the target of a cyberbully or if they are otherwise the target of hurtful behaviors.
  5. Digital Footprints and Reputation: It’s important to learn to protect your own privacy, but adults, teens, and kids alike should also respect the privacy of others. Anything that’s posted online can stay there forever, and each and every post is part of someone’s digital footprint. It’s vital to be aware of the footprint you’re leaving online and how it could potentially come back to haunt you later on. Respect the privacy of others online when tagging, posting, or copying personal information.
  6. Self-Image and Identity: Your self-image and identity are a large part of your digital citizenship. By being able to customize your own avatars and text, for example, people have opportunities to express themselves digitally. Playing around with creative identities can prove to be an imaginative method to allow younger individuals today to explore who they really are.
  7. Information Literacy: In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to have the ability to use and evaluate digital information effectively. Information literacy makes you more well-versed in evaluating the quality and credibility of websites along with the intentions of online advertising. With information literacy, you’re better able to process what you’re seeing digitally and why.
  8. Creative Credit and Copyright: Giving credit for someone else’s creations is a very important part of digital citizenship. It’s important to know about the rights to copyrighted work, how to identify copyrighted work that isn’t in the public domain, how to know what constitutes fair use, and what piracy and plagiarism are along with the consequences of them. Copyright infringement is unlawful, unethical, and wrong!

For more information and resources about digital citizenship and online safety, check out these sites: