Should Educators Focus on Just Citizenship Instead of Digital Citizenship?

Every passing year, technology and innovation continue to grow and develop. With technology always shifting, our communities and especially our students need a firm foundation for decision-making and behavior to help inform how these tools shape their lives. In the education community, we call this digital citizenship.

Digital citizenship is more than students knowing their way around the web. It’s about connecting and collaborating in ways they didn’t even know were possible. When we teach digital citizenship, we help create a positive school culture that supports safe and responsible technology use.

Because our kids are growing up with technology, some might say that “Digital Citizenship should just be citizenship.” There are many reasons for such a notion, but the realities of “digital” mean a whole other set of considerations such as reach, scale and scope.

Reach

Today’s digital world allows for our messages to go anywhere, a reach with very few boundaries. Students ’ worlds are not limited to the town or city they live in, because today, they can easily connect globally.

Students need to be cognizant of that fact that their actions online are now part of a broader community. They can share images and videos with friends and families across oceans, but if we’re not careful, friends and families might run into embarrassing images and videos we did not intend to circulate.

Scale

Reach pales in comparison to the potential scale of what we share. Not only does what we share go far, but it can also go wide.

Growing up, I was only concerned with being on the right side of the 25 kids in my classroom. Today, my thoughts and actions can reach millions in seconds. The digital world puts us into an online space that billions of people interact with every day.

Our decisions within that space have the potential of affecting each one of them. While the right post that I can stand behind sounds like an incredible opportunity, the reality is something more embarrassing about me is more likely to go viral.

Scope

In this digital world, we can now do much more than consume information online. We have some incredible tools to help us create and collaborate in ways never before imagined.

A student’s voice is now much more than just an image or a video, it can be artwork, it can be animated, and it can even be augmented reality. There is so much more than these digital spaces have allowed for us to make of ourselves, which also means that there’s much more that we have to account for in our digital worlds.

Being nice, respectful and paying forward are great alignments to citizenship in-person and online. There are many others of course, but not recognizing that the digital world carries with it a host of additional considerations that need to be put into practice with every keystroke decision and swipe is missing an important mark.

Our digital lives are not confined to the neighborhoods where we live. They go beyond the lives of our neighborhoods, and in some cases have a life of their own. As technology continues to grow, innovate and escalate, we need to make sure that we keep into perspective reach, scale and scope. 


Merve Lapus is Director of Education Outreach, Common Sense Media, where he supervises the organization’s outreach team and oversees national initiatives, including keynoting Student Safety Symposiums held across the country.