Digital Citizenship: Why It’s So Important for Students

You likely follow many of the rules of digital citizenship without knowing it. From internet safety to etiquette, these may have already been ingrained in you by either your parents or teachers. But digital citizenship is more than safety online. Here’s a rundown of what it is, the 9 aspects of digital citizenship, and why it’s so important for students (and adults).

What is Digital Citizenship?

Digital citizenship relates to the responsible use of digital assets and technology, including the internet, hardware such as computers and tablets, and other digital devices. It’s an essential area of study as it teaches students to properly use the internet and keep safety in mind every time they use a phone, laptop, or another computer. There are a few different concepts of digital citizenship that we will cover below.

Why is Digital Citizenship Important?

Digital citizenship teaches students that empathy is important when using the internet and that long-lasting relationships can be made using digital tools – but only with the right approach.

If a student fails to understand the importance of digital citizenship, they could be more likely to cyberbully others or post personal information on the internet for others to find, putting their safety at risk.

9 Important Concepts of Digital Citizenship?

The different concepts that are included in the digital citizenship umbrella will vary depending on who you ask, but the core ideas remain the same.

1. Empathy

Empathy is an important skill, online and offline. However, thanks to the anonymity the internet gives us, it can be easy to forget it. And it’s also difficult, especially through text, for someone to always capture tone. So what you may think is a silly joke or is sarcasm, another person may not realize it due to the lack of tone. Even when using voice chat, lack of body language can sometimes cause misunderstandings. 

Misunderstandings like this can lead to fast judgment of a person and even result in cyberbullying. 

2. How the Internet Works

Of course, students should also learn how to appropriately use the internet and how it works as a whole. It’s more impressive than most people realize (including adults)! And understanding the exact process of how data and information move through those cables (it’s not all cats) is an important lesson to learn. From networking to hardware, there are plenty of factors that make the internet “work.”

3. User Data

If you sat down and thought about it, how many websites have you signed up for over the years? All of those companies have your information – and any companies they partner with may have your information, too!

There are also cookies that attach themselves to your browser and will take a look at what else you’re doing with your time online.

All of this information can be used either for marketing purposes or maliciously (or both). Most countries have laws on what companies can collect on those under the age of 18, but that doesn’t stop every business or website out there. 

Taking a look at your digital footprint is the best way to understand user data, and how to govern your personal information. Students and adults have to take stock of where their data is and what they’re giving out going forward. Mistakes here can be costly – and it’s more than just tons of spam in your email inbox. It could be easier to steal your identity.

4. Digital Literacy

There is a lot of information on the internet – and a lot of it is just plain wrong! Froclickbaitit to fake news and poorly researched articles to writers’ motivations, there is quite a bit to weed through to get to the real facts.

Digital literacy helps students to find sources for their information and back up their statements and facts with verifiable details. Instructors and parents need to teach their students how to properly verify their information as well as their sources, and teach the difference betweeclickbaitit and a well-written piece.

5. The Gap in Internet Access

Sadly, not everyone has the same experience on the internet. In some parts of the United States and the world as a whole, internet access is limited. Slow internet speeds, poverty, and outdated technology can restrict students’ abilities to get online. Students with more advanced opportunities should not assume that everyone has the same access as they do.

6. Taking Breaks from the Internet

It can be easy to go from TikTok to TikTok or scroll through your Twitter feed, but moderation is a must when it comes to the internet – no matter how hard it may be to tear yourself away from the next funny video. 

Students need to learn the importance of taking breaks and digital wellness. There are numerous benefits to our development, brain, and productivity by taking breaks away from the internet.

7. Security

Cyber threats aren’t just for businesses – they’re for individuals as well. Strong passwords should always be used, especially for sensitive accounts like your bank account and email. Computers, laptops, tablets, and phones should always have passcodes turned on. If you walk away from your phone, lock it. Same with computers. This will prevent someone from getting into your device even if you left it behind for just a second, or if it was stolen.

Antivirus software is also a must as it helps prevent ransomware and other malware from worming their way into your devices. In addition, students should learn about phishing, suspicious texts and documents, unknown numbers and emails, and general online safety – including what you post online.

VPNs can come in handy, too, as they are designed to provide security and privacy to their users.

8. E-Commerce

Younger students may not be buying or selling on the internet, but older ones could be. If buying or selling in person, the individual should never invite someone to their house to seal the deal – especially if they’re alone. Meet in a public space such as a cafe.

And when purchasing online, you always want to vet the seller and the marketplace. There are plenty of scams out there! Of course, the student should not be selling scams either.

9. Plagiarism

Plagiarism isn’t something new with the internet – it predates it by quite a bit – but the internet has made it easier to commit. Plagiarism is when you steal or use another individual, company, or group’s work without permission. Some students also think they can copy from Wikipedia, spin the words (change the words using a thesaurus), and hand it in. Teachers will catch this – and the older you get, the heavier the consequences. College students who commit plagiarism in any form face expulsion.

Digital citizenship is more important than ever – and all students, old and young, should understand the need for internet safety every time they log in, pick up their phone, or check their email. These are lifelong lessons that can impact your college years, adult life, financial health, and more!

Teachers are the main source of information on digital citizenship. Do you want to help future students on their journey through the internet? Use our Major Search tool to identify the best areas of study that can help you do just that!