This is background information on the Digital Citizenship program as outlined in our book "Literacy is Not Enough".
The Digital Citizenship Agreements are available for you to download at the bottom of this article.
To be a citizen, of a country brings certain rights and responsibilities.In Rome, a citizen was exempt some taxes, protected against certain punishments, empowered with rights like voting, making contracts, marriage and standing for office. But with these rights also came responsibilities. The citizen of Rome had to speak Latin, pay taxes, serve jury duty, be registered and identified by birth certificate and census. They also had to up hold social responsibilities and be virtuous.
Digital citizenship has similar benefits and responsibilities. A good digital citizen will experience the advantages of the digital world but like a citizen of a nation, they will be identifiable, speak using the appropriate language, serve his or her duty to judge what is appropriate within the laws of the land and ethical behavior, uphold their social responsibilities and be virtuous.
The internet is a little like the proverbial elephant that never forgets. Our digital footprints are not like the footprints on the beach, washed away by the next wave or rising tide. Rather they are like footprints left to dry in the wet concrete of the footpath. They are a permanent reminder of our actions, inactions and interactions. To navigate and to survive in this dynamic digital world requires some basic rules and guidelines, we call these tenets of digital citizenship.
The Digital Citizen will follow six tenets of citizenship.
- Respect yourself
- Protect yourself
- Respect others
- Protect others
- Respect intellectual property
- Protect intellectual property
The principles of digital citizenship are the same principles that we would want our students to apply to their day to day interactions in the real world. In both the virtual and real worlds, we expect our students to respectful and protective of themselves, their peers and others they interact with and the environment. By implementing these tenets in the digital world we can draw parallels to our physical world.
Digital citizenship is an age dependent. As a result of this there are three versions of this agreement which suit the level of ethical and moral development of the students and have a suitable level of complexitiy for the age of the Students. The concept has been simplified for the Middle school students and further simplified for younger students.
|Senior Students||Middle School Students||Junior School Students|
|Looking after yourself||Looking after me|
|Looking after others||Looking after others|
|Respect Intellectual Property
Protect Intellectual Property
|Looking after property||Looking after stuff|
1. Respect Yourself
This is being a virtuous citizen. It is too easy to present yourself in a unflattering or even inappropriate manner. Respecting yourself starts with the name you use to present yourself. How often do we see social networking or twitter names that are suggestive and questionable? Or the images posted to social sites that are provocative, revealing or less than flattering? Increasingly employers are searching social networking sites to research potential employees. How does your profile, online name and image portray you as a potential member of a professional organisation.
Many of the social sites will also ask you to comment on your sexual orientation, relationship status, experimentation with drugs and more extreme examples your sexual activities or preferences. You need to consider the potential outcomes of revealing these aspects of your life to what is increasingly a public forum. While many social networking sites do have privacy options (see below). The default level of access could see your most personal information accessible via applications (tools created in social networks that access your profile etc) or via your friends, their friends and associates.
- Select names and images that portray you in a positive light.
- Do not post any information that would would not want your mother, grand parent or employer to see.
- Leave blank, questions about your relationships, experimentation with drugs and sexual activities or preferences.
- Apply ethical approaches like:
- I will show respect for myself through my actions.
- I will select online names that are appropriate,
- I will consider the information and images that I post online.
- I will consider what personal information about my life, experiences, experimentation or relationships I post.
- I will not be obscene.
2. Protect Yourself
A couple of years ago, I had my attention drawn to a social networking page of a student. The page was not inappropriate or obscene, it did not contain references to sex or drugs or even “rock n roll”. The student was a bright and bubbly 12 year old girl, interested in horses, ski-ing and having fun. She was sharing with her friends and her profile was public. The information she posted was innocent, but in her naivety she had posted images of herself dressed only in her bikini, a “week in - week out” schedule of her activities like;
“...every Tuesday I ride at the pony club and on Wednesday I am ski-ing at snow planet”
Inadvertently, she had potentially provided any predator a profile of herself, complete with opportunities of where to meet her, with conversation starters about her interests, hobbies, friends and music. The young girl had done nothing inappropriate, she was simply open and trusting. She was naive as you would expect of a young child.
Adults do not fare much better. Open statements about your sexual orientation can bring about social isolation, cyberbullying and potentially physical assaults. In many cultures, you risk prosecution or persecution by announcing that you are not hetrosexually orientated.
Considering what you write, is not limited to social networking sites. Blogs, wikis, twitter and instant messaging services allow you to express your opinions. In some countries, there is potential risk for venturing to publish views and opinions that are contrary to the doctorine of the ruling parties. As we have seen in China, Myanmar and more recently in Fiji, expressing your opposition can be a danger to you and your family.
The rise of citizen journalism via these mediums has also led to other risks. Not the least of these is prosecution for defamation. It pays to be sure of your facts before you publish. No matter how passionate you are about a topic, or how big you perceive the injustice to be.
Many, many, many of us will at some stage find ourselves as the targets of bullying and online abuse. It is crucial that you don't try and deal with it on your own. Tell someone you trust, a friend, parent, teacher, employer, counselor etc. Report the abuse to the moderator of the site. Don't respond to it. Record it for evidence.
In 2007, in the Internet in Britain report produced by Oxford Internet Surveys, found that almost 12% of internet users have gone on to meet an online acquaintance offline. The internet provides a great medium to meet new people and develop new friendships, but it is crucial that this is done with an awareness of the nature of the internet. The public profile a person puts forward may be a facade of lies that hides the true person behind it. In the US it is reported that 1 in 8 marriages in 2008 started with an online relationship. Social media has huge potential for establishing new relationships but does have a similar potential for risk.
- Think about the information you are posting, what will it mean to an outsider viewing it? What will it mean without the prior information your audience (friends, blog subscribers, twitter followers etc) may have?
- Don't publish a schedule of your activities
- Set the privacy settings on your tools to control access to your updates, posts or profile.
- Be sure of the facts you post.
- Remember this adage “Send in haste, repent at leisure” Its easy to send an email or post a message in a moment of passion, but once sent or posted its almost impossible to delete. Think before you post.
- Use ethical approaches like:
- I will ensure that the information, images and materials
- I post online will not put me at risk.
- I will not publish my personal details, contact details or a schedule of my activities.
- I will report any attacks or inappropriate behaviour directed at me.
- I will protect passwords, accounts and resources.
- And finally, if you are meeting some one you have met online in the real world, discuss it with people you trust, parents, friends, teachers etc and NEVER meet them alone.
3. Respect others
As a responsible cyber or digital citizen, we model respect for other people. In the past, gossip was limited to your immediate field of friends and acquaintances, but with the advent and uptake of digital technologies the potential audience for gossip and innuendo is global. The ease with which anyone with internet access can publish is incredible. Publishing in a digital medium is as simple as typing or speaking. Anyone can set up and publish a blog in three or four minutes and then the audience is immense.
Flaming is the term used to describe a post or thread that attacks a person. A good general rule to follow is:
If you wouldn't say it in person, don't say it online.
Respect for others goes beyond the material we might publish and goes to the sites we visit. Whether it is gossip, hate, racist or pornographic sites we should be discerning because by visiting we give our tacit approval to.
The Pornographic industry is one of the saddest in the world, beneath its facade of ecstatic pleasure lies persecution, desperation, abuse, hopelessness, sadness and dispare How many Hollywood hopefuls have been drawn into these scenes in order to make enough money to survive? Does the sex industry portray real human relationships? Do the eyes of the models show passion or sorrow?
- If you have nothing nice to say, then say nothing.
- Don't forwarded it, don't visit it don't condone it.
- Teach and talk about real relationships.
- Use statements and ethical guidelines like:
- I will show respect to others.
- I will not use electronic mediums to flame, bully, harass or stalk other people.
- I will show respect for other people in my choice of websites,
- I will not visit sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist or inappropriate.
- I will not abuse my rights of access and I will not enter other people's private spaces or areas.
4. Protect others
Every social networking site, instant messaging tool, chatroom, wiki, blog and social media has a report abuse contact. USE IT! We can protect others by not tolerating and reporting behavior that is inappropriate or unacceptable.
Don't forward emails that are derogatory, delete them.
By sitting by quietly as a person is flamed in a threaded discussion, or attacked by a troll in a chatroom, we encourage the attacker and validate their position. You can not sit by and let such behaviour continue.
If the conversation in your chatroom changes to have sexual overtones, then report it. It may not be you that is the target but one of your friends. Consider what it would feel like if you were the recipient of such activity.
- Have a policy of zero tolerance for unacceptable behaviour, Report abuse.
- Don't forward or pass on unacceptable material – delete it. Stop the trail at your trash can.
- Consider the other persons feelings and act accordingly.
- Use statements like this - I will protect others by reporting abuse, not forwarding inappropriate materials or communications; and not visiting sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist or inappropriate.
5. Respect Intellectual Property
There is so much information out there, there are so many amazing materials to share and so many people have given their precious time for free. This facet of the digital citizen is to respect or honour Intellectual property. Honouring intellectual property is not hard and requires little more than common courtesy, like:
- Citing the source of images and information
- Giving credit when credit is due.
- Asking permission before you use them
- Linking to websites rather than downloading and reposting
- Sharing your own materials
- I will request permission to use resources.
- I will suitably cite any and all use of websites, books, media etc.
- I will validate information.
- I will use and abide by the fair use rules.
6. Protect Intellectual Property
The term piracy conjures up ideas of sailing ships, eye patches and swash buckling adventure. However the reality of piracy is simple; PIRACY IS THEFT!
No matter what face you put on it, no matter whether it is software, music or movies PIRACY is THEFT!
Bit torrents, limewire, Kazaa have made the theft of music, movies and programs as simple as clicking a mouse.
Most of us would never consider walking into a video store and stealing a DVD and yet we use programs that do exactly that. The impact of piracy is often seen to be distant and excused by comments like “Well, they are paid millions for that”, but the reality is that piracy costs the recording artists and software producers billions of dollars each year, it discourages creativity and increases prices.
It also has an effect in your own neighborhood, it directly decrease employment. When movies or music is stolen by being downloaded your local music or video store loses sales and this undermines the viability of the business and the livelihoods of the owner and employees.
Piracy discourages creativity, piracy takes away the opportunity for emerging artists to succeed.
There are alternatives. The creative commons licensing agreements have made available millions of images, masses of media, libraries of books that are available accessible and free. It is worth considering, when you publish your works, using the creative commons license. Creative commons is a license or statement of use that encourages people to share. Under the creative commons license you can use set the level of rights a user has to your intellectual property. Visit http://creativecommons.org/ to find out more.
- I will request to use the software and media others produce.
- I will use free and open source alternatives rather than pirating software.
- I will purchase, license and register all software.
- I will purchase my music and media, and refrain from distributing these in a manner that violates their licenses.
- I will act with integrity.
Think before you post video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvp-kZeoWW0&feature=fvst
Think before you post 2 Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4w4_Hrwh2XI
Cyberbullying - kitchen video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmD8OKl8vVM
Cyberbullying - talent show - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seOQyMvG99w
Alberta Education - Development guide for digital citizenship policy -