What is Digital Citizenship?

Posted on October 9, 2015 by Mike Ribble

“What is Digital Citizenship?” After a decade of writing on this topic and even now with the number of others that have joined the conversation, we still come back to the same question. Everyone seems to know the issue, but coming to a consensus regarding what needs to be done becomes much more involved.

I think back to a story that I learned as a child about six blind men and an elephant. As each one felt a different part of the elephant they “saw” something different. The same is true as we have this discussion about digital citizenship. Are we talking about cyberbullying, digital health or is it cyber safety? My answer has always been “Yes, it is this and much more.”

From the beginning of working on this concept, I have felt that there are some core concepts or elements that everyone using technology needed to know. I have shared these ideas in my book Digital Citizenship in Schools (we just released the 3rd edition in September), and I have refined these ideas and added some related ideas.

One area that I have been working on since the last edition that combines the elements into three main categories of Respect, Educate and Protect (REPs). These provide a new umbrella that the nine elements (from earlier editions) now can fit under. It also provides a roadmap of how we can begin teaching these ideas of the nine elements beginning as young as kindergarten and show how these can become repetitions (or shortened as REPs) through their education.

The skills needed today are not so different from our past. We can connect with so many more people almost instantaneously, but we need to remember still that we are part of this digital community as well as our real-world communities. We need to empathize with others and think about their perspectives as well as ours. Many of the issues we have with technology can be solved if we just took a moment before we Tweet, text or post and asked, “What would others think about this, or how might it be received?” In the end, we will be remembered by the strength of our character not the numbers of friends we connect with online.

I am hopeful that everyone will begin to see these topics as important touchstones for everyone who works, plays and interacts in the online space. There are so many more opportunities and information today than ever before on the issues and ideas of digital citizenship. If you want to be a part of the conversation, there is a #digcit chat on Twitter every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET. The gathering is a great opportunity to discuss with those who also are interested in the topic of digital citizenship.

It has been a wonderful past 10 years with digital citizenship and want to thank those working and sharing on this topic every day. I only see this topic growing in the coming years. Thank you all for your support and please contact me and let me know if I can be of assistance.

Mike RibbleMike Ribble has served as a classroom biology teacher, a secondary school administrator, a network manager for a community college and a university instructor. He received a doctorate in educational leadership from Kansas State University. He is also co-author of the best-selling Digital Citizenship in Schools.