This week I had the privilege of participating in a panel discussion in Delhi at Facebook’s South Asia Safety Summit with YLAC India (Young Leaders for Active Citizenship). YLAC works “to increase the participation of young people in the democratic process and build their capacity to lead change,” using social media as their platform.
That is digital citizenship, right? Isn’t it necessarily citizen-sourced and therefore something collective and evolving, as well as individual? Isn’t it more about seeking and forming consensus than dictating from the top down? About learning more than teaching? Doesn’t it enable agency – the capacity to act, exercise one’s rights of participation, engage civically (as well as civilly), and effect change – rather than manage behavior? Isn’t behavior education more the domain of evidence-based social-emotional learning and bullying prevention education?
What we, adult citizens, could be teaching younger ones, is what affords citizenship now: the three literacies of our very social digital media – media, digital and social literacies (SEL) – all equally important in this digital age – and what their rights of participation are, as enshrined in the UNCRC (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child)? [For details, see this on the 3 digital-age literacies, this on young people’s digital-age rights, by Sonia Livingstone and Amanda Third, and this on the “three Ps” of the UNCRC in the context of Internet safety.]
Empower the citizens
An important contribution to the discussion came in the form of a post this past week by citizenship scholar Ioanna Noula in the Media Policy Project blog at the London School of Economics. “The exclusive focus on behaviours and tech skills leaves citizen participation and empowerment out of its scope and significantly limits the potential of education to bring about change,” Dr. Noula writes, taking a look at U.S. approaches to the subject. Her post cautions against “obscuring the mission of education to promote democratic citizenship,” and comments that “proponents of digital citizenship misrepresent traditional concepts for education, including critical thinking and empowerment.” Read more