The Importance of Digital Citizenship

In this day and age, a great deal of people have an online presence. When asked, I’m sure it would be a common mistake of many to assume that “online presence” automatically means possessing an account on social media. While that is one way of displaying online presence, it is not by any stretch of the imagination the only way. Anything a person has ever signed up for, posted to, and shared makes up an online presence. In addition, anything shared about a person constitutes their online presence as well. As an English major, I’m embarrassed that “online presence” has been written six times in this single paragraph, but it is intentional. It is crucial for people to be aware of their online presence (number seven, anyone?) because it is like marks on permanent records; once an individual tosses out information into the great abyss of the world wide web, it is nearly impossible to completely remove it.

Another way to describe a person’s online presence is through the phrase “digital citizenship”. To me, creating a healthy digital citizenship is all about interacting in a positive manner. Generally, people are online to acquire information. The information they acquire comes from other people. By respecting the people who are posting the information, even if you do not necessarily agree with it, you are a promoting a safe exchange of ideas which is crucial to the success of the internet. In addition, you are promoting your own reputation as a promoter of the safe exchange of ideas, which is great for your digital citizenship. Unfortunately, it is easy to slip into hurtful online ways. The internet might provide for the sharing of information beyond nearly any barrier, but in doing so it has created a barrier in and of itself. If people wish to, they can hide behind the internet. When there is no fear of a face-to-face confrontation, internet users have a tendency to feel “bigger” than they actually are. This often manifests in negative language and/or behavior, which in turn can become cyberbullying. This is definitely NOT a way to create healthy digital citizenship, and it is important for everyone to know that.

As a future educator, I believe that a large portion of the responsibility to educate students about healthy digital citizenship falls upon the school system. As I mentioned in the first sentence, a great deal of people have an online presence. However, this does not mean all people have an online presence. In the United States and around the world there are plenty of people that live completely off the grid. As a result, teachers cannot take for granted that parents have the ability or means to teach their child how to successfully create a positive digital footprint. This school year, Digital Learning Day falls on February 23rd. Started in 2012, Digital Learning Day  provides a great opportunity for educators to teach students digital literacy and digital citizenship and how they can best use both to help them soar in the classroom. This article provides a great example of how a classroom used Digital Literacy Day to positively show students how much the internet affects their lives. We need to get to the point where we aren’t just teaching students how to be digital citizens, but also digital leaders (see illustration below).

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Digital leaders can make a difference in this world. Photo CC by Sylvia Duckworth on Flickr.

Personally, I strive everyday to make my online presence as positive as it can be. I was taught from an early age the importance of how a person presents themselves on the internet, and it has stuck with me. Have I always been perfect? No, because I am human. However, most of what I post and share and sign-up for on the internet directly reflects my personal beliefs. One day in the near future potential employers will be scouring my Google results and social media sites trying to decide if I will be a good candidate to teach the students at their school, and I want them to see nothing but positivity on every page they find. Today I challenge you all to want the same. It isn’t necessarily easy, but let’s try to clean up our little corners of the internet by only showing kindness and respect to others. Your digital citizenship will thank you, and so will the countless people who have fallen prey to those who do not demonstrate a good online presence. That right there should make it all worth it.

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7 thoughts on “The Importance of Digital Citizenship

  1. I love that you acknowledged the fact that you used the phrase “online presence” seven times in the first paragraph. This is a tidbit of information that a non-English major like me would have never noticed without it being pointed out, haha! Cyber bullying has become the top form of bullying due to the increase in social media. I feel it is critical to promote positive thinking and comments as teachers. With that being said, I find it very important that teachers interact with their students as well via social media. Do you think that teachers should participate in these online discussions in addition to parent monitoring?

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    • Thank you! I was totally self-conscious of the repetition as I was writing but hey, it worked out for the best. I believe that teachers should play a large role in teaching students about healthy digital citizenship, but I do not believe that it is a teacher’s responsibility to monitor students online unless it is directly related to their classroom. I appreciate the comment!

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  2. Great post! I like that you mentioned that an online presence doesn’t necessarily mean someone has an account on social media. Up until I was in college, I didn’t have any types of social media. I too thought about how people think they are ‘bigger’ than they really are when online and how this leads to poor behavior. I agree that it is important for educators should teach digital citizenship to their students. Again, great post!

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    • You bet. My junior year of high school I deleted all social media accounts I had (except Pinterest, of course) because I needed a break. This past summer I once again hopped online. While I appreciate some aspects of social media, like being able to keep in touch with people I care about, much of it makes me weary. I have half a mind to delete all my accounts again once this semester is over, but we will see how it goes. Until then, I plan to promote positivity with my online presence! I really appreciate the comment!

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  3. Pingback: Nostalgic or Not, Here Digital Literacy Comes! (To be Stated Like Someone Playing Hide-and-Seek) | The Joyous Life of Jess

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