Digital Citizenship: Dawn of a New Era

Tech and Innovation

Digital Citizenship: What and Why

The world today is driven by technology and the impact technological advancements have had on our lives has been undeniable. We have grown so dependent on it that to think of living a full day without the help of any technological or digital engagement seems almost impossible. Of all these technological advancements that have made our life so comfortable, the invention of the Internet can be regarded as one of the greatest game-changers.

A borderless virtual world

With the Internet, the world today has become accessible 24 x 7. Today, anyone can write an article and with an internet connection, upload it on any medium or online channel, and the article can be accessed by everyone around the globe in an instant. You reading this article is the perfect example of it.
Studies have found that of 7.7 billion people in the world today, the number of smartphone users worldwide with Internet access surpasses 3 billion. And not only this, almost half of the world population have access to smartphones or other smart gadgets and they also spend a substantial amount of time on the internet.
To put a little perspective, statistics by Statista show that the average daily (individual average) Social Media (which is just a small part of the internet) usage of internet users worldwide in the year 2018 was 136 minutes.
So, what does this mean? What impact is this really having?

The Age of Digital Citizenship

The world, as we know it, has become a borderless digital world, with billions of people interacting with each other daily using an abundance of online technologies and platforms. These facilitate social interaction and create the opportunity for entertainment, education and even employment, essentially creating a digital society. Thus, all the participators of this digital society can be considered as digital citizens.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a Digital Citizen as “someone who is skilled in using the internet in order to communicate with others, buy and sell things, and take part in politics, and who understands how to do this in a safe and responsible way:”
The internet is a wonderful platform if used in the right and ethical ways, but it also has many potential pitfalls that can affect a substantial number of digital citizens. It isn’t as free and safe as it appears to the eyes and has many good, as well as evil implications to it. As in the case of the physical world, where regular citizens are expected to act responsibly and appropriately under some norms, the same is expected from digital citizens. This expectation with senses of ownership and belonging to this online world is called Digital Citizenship. The
simplest way to define Digital Citizenship is responsible for interaction with the digital environment and its communities.

Why Digital Citizenship matters?

Things such as cyberbullying, identity theft, online fraud, plagiarism and theft of intellectual properties are unfortunate byproducts of the online world. These occurrences, which are so common nowadays, not only affect the reputation and perception of the victims online but also have great ramifications in the real day-to-day lives of the victims. The 2019 Identity Fraud study by Javelin Strategy reports that 14.4 million people were victims of identity theft and fraud in 2018. This is just like a needle in the hay of cybercrimes that prevail over the dark side of the internet. The online world has opened up a world of “trolling”, where cyberbullying takes place through a hidden identity, empowered by physical distance and the openness provided by the web.
Thus, the first and the most fundamental aspect of being a digital citizen is to follow and promote safe online activity, and to understand the need to protect the privacy of oneself and others. It is also vitally important to be able to empathize with people online, as you do with people you meet physically, and be respectful of the intellectual properties of others.
Digital citizenship matters because it means knowing the nuances of using the internet and not become a victim; but, more importantly, learning how not to be the offender and the culprit.

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