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Digital Respons-Ability

The Definition of Digital Citizenship

What is the definition of Digital Citizenship?

Definition of Digital Citizenship

Put simply, Digital Citizenship is the ethical and responsible use of technology.

However, Digital Citizenship is so much more than that. It’s an umbrella term that encompasses concepts like being healthy online, online civic and political engagement, online safety, effective communication and media literacy. There’s not one consensus among academics, policymakers, governmental and international organizations, educators and more. There is not one person or organization that “started” or “owns” digital citizenship. It’s a complex and overarching multidisciplinary field.

History of The Definition of Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship has evolved from the early years in the 1990s. The term started appearing then as more technology came into classrooms. In the early days, digital citizenship was focused on access to technology and the hard skills, digital literacy, to use that technology.

Another focus of digital citizenship in the early stages was on the word “citizen.” There were conversations by academics and policymakers who decided that to be a full participating citizen in your community you needed access to the Internet and technology. In the 2007 book Digital Citizenship: The Internet, Society, and Participation the term was described as “the ability to participate in society online.”

As mobile technology grew the issue of access was less discussed in the digital citizenship realm, and safety became a bigger concern. To many, the definition of digital citizenship is just about being safe online. Individuals and organizations will bring their own cultural, regional, ethical and work experiences to how they see the definition of digital citizenship. Harvard’s Berkman Klein institute proposes using the term “digital citizenship+” with the plus symbol to indicate that it’s a word with a broad scope and complexity.

Digital Citizenship Today

The term continues to be debated and discussed but overall most stakeholders, international organizations, educators and others have coalesced under the term “digital citizenship.” In another decade the term may still be used but with even more definitions, perspectives and elements added. Because digital citizenship is an issue that affects so many, the definition will continue adapting as technology and people change.

See more about our research.

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