“Digital citizenship” is a rapidly expanding conversation in the online-safety field. Is it one we should be having? Is it relevant to young people, the “citizens” we all have in mind? On a recent conference panel, Prof. Tanya Byron of the UK seemed to suggest not – too abstract or complicated maybe. I agree with her a lot of the time but not on this point, because I think digital citizenship is what makes online safety relevant to the people Net safety is supposed to protect.
In a participatory media environment, focusing on citizenship helps everybody understand that: 1) they’re stakeholders in their own well-being online, 2) they’re stakeholders in their community’s well-being as well as that of fellow participants (because in a user-driven environment safety can’t logically be the sole responsibility of the community’s host), and 3) they have rights and responsibilities online. Digital citizens have a right to the support of fellow members, as well as of the community as a whole, and in turn the responsibility to provide support as well as cultivate a supportive environment. As my friends at Childnet International in London say at Digizen.org, digital citizenship is about “using your online presence to grow and shape your world in a safe, creative way, and inspiring others to do the same.”
Two other recent conversations got me thinking about how digital citizenship might be made even more relevant to youth:
What do terms of service have to do with it? On the social Web, services (games, social network sites, virtual worlds, etc.), the communities of users they host, and users themselves all have rights and responsibilities. So I suggest that…