Are you a responsible “digital citizen”?


In the age of the internet and social media, where over 80% of the US population has an online presence and uses the Internet regularly and effectively, it’s essential to understand one’s responsibilities as a “digital citizen”.

Often, we underestimate the impact we might have on others when interacting online, posting content that shapes their opinions. When sharing intellectual property it’s key to be aware of what we spread in the world and to educate with credible facts instead of spitting out disturbing content that fascinates. We consume what our friends post, build our opinions on what we hear and what we read. Therefore, living and working in a digital world, it’s important to recognize one’s rights and responsibility to act in safe, legal and ethical ways.

Technology has many advantages and when used right, it can spread important news fast and scale positive movements quickly. Yet, it has to be handled with caution, misinformation and fake news spread like wildfire and can have major impact on topics such as politics and business. Being a responsible digital citizen means using technology appropriately and operating safely and knowledgeably online.

“As many educators know, most students want to do the right thing — and will, if they know what that is,” Mike Ribble, author of Digital Citizenship in Schools and co-founder of the new Digital Citizenship Network states. “Let’s help them do great things with technology while avoiding the pitfalls.”

Here are 5 ways of taking responsibility as a “digital citizen”:

1. Recognize your responsibilities

Know that the rights and freedom you have online come with responsibilities. Recognize what impact you may have on others, especially if you’re representing authority. Be conscious about the content you’re sharing with friends and followers and in what way it can influence them. Make others, who act irresponsibly, aware of their behavior and share this information with them.

2. Safety

Maintaining digital security is crucial when having an online presence. Make sure to not publish delicate content that may cause problems for either yourself or others. Don’t share personal information publicly and always remember; What goes on the internet stays on the internet. Besides protecting yourself from spams and viruses, be aware that certain information such as your contact information should be published with caution.

3. Ethics

Cyberbullying is and has been a huge issue. Close to 34 percent of students acknowledge that they have experienced cyberbullying, which can have major effects not only on individuals but on society in general. Showing respect towards others is the foundation of leveraging technology to move social causes forward, even if you don’t share the same opinion. Seeking to understand where other people are coming from is one of the fastest ways to develop empathy towards them and overcome social and political issues.

4. Legality

Just as in “real life”, there are laws online that have to be followed. Don’t engage in unlawful activities such as stealing intellectual property, damaging others’ work or identity, or creating destructive programs or websites. Even though it’s way harder to be accused of illegal behavior online, it’s your responsibility as a “digital citizen” to follow the law.

5. Educate yourself

Seek to understand all perspectives of a topic and learn to apply critical thinking to all online content. Avoid sharing non-reliable sources and fake news with your followers.  The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) recommends to always read multiple articles on the same topic and to determine the reliability of sources such as the news outlet, author and backed up facts. Before sharing anything online, which may affect people’s opinions, make sure the content is contributing positively to society and helps others understand issues from an objective point of view. Almost 80% of students mistake paid advertisement for legit news, which means that it’s really easy to control how (especially young) members of society think. Utilize tools such as Nobias to determine biases and reliability of articles and detect fake news before sharing.  It’s your responsibility as a “digital citizen” to educate yourself and prevent spreading fake news leading to misunderstanding in important topics such as business and politics.

Undoubtedly, being a “digital citizen” has many advantages and comes with new possibilities; We’re more connected than ever and are building an entire parallel world online, sharing our passions and pains, discussing politics and social issues and doing business with each other.

Technology brings many new inventions and opportunities. If used responsibly, the internet and social media has the power to move social causes forward and be an incredible aid for change. Therefore, educating yourself on how to best behave online and how you influence others when sharing content, is one of the main components of a responsible “digital citizen”.