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Blog post

Digital Citizenship

April 20, 2017
By Stephanie Wells


In this digital world, we all hold a digital dossier that is comprised of our online activity. This so-called “digital footprint” includes where we shop online, the websites we browse, the articles we read, the photos we post, and the videos we watch. As we navigate online, our habits are monitored and data is accrued based on our activity. This, in essence, is how one’s digital dossier is built. As this digital world continues to expand and evolve, it is important to consider how our digital footprint affects us as well as those around us.

Have you ever noticed that after you have performed a Google search for a specific item, that same item appears as an ad as you browse the Internet? This is no accident. This is simply marketing companies using this data to serve ads specifically targeted at you. It is also important to note that your digital dossier is not just made up of your own online activity. Other people contribute to your digital footprint via tagged photos, employer information, and emails.

Another important aspect of digital footprints is their permanence. Understanding that our digital activity can never truly be deleted is an important first step in taking control of our digital footprint. This is especially important for “Digital Natives”, a term that is used to describe Generation Z- Post-Millennials, whose entire lives are rooted in digital data. It has been said that the digital dossiers for digital natives can begin before they are even born –  with the first piece of their digital footprint – their sonogram shared by their parents on social media.

As it becomes clearer just how profound and indelible our digital footprints are, it is important to consider all the different components that contribute to one’s digital dossier. Digital Citizenship is comprised of nine elements (Ribble, 2015). :

1.            Digital Access 

2.            Digital Commerce

3.            Digital Communication 

4.            Digital Literacy

5.            Digital Etiquette

6.            Digital Law 

7.            Digital Rights & Responsibilities

8.            Digital Health & Wellness 

9.            Digital Security 

Although these principles are quite vague in nature, they have been founded in an effort to promote respect, knowledge and protection and can help guide us in our pursuit of being responsible and productive digital citizens. In order to create safer and better digital spaces, these nine principles would benefit from more explicit and detailed definitions and a clearer understanding of how they can be implemented. This information would allow users to have a better understanding of what behaviours are in accordance with responsible digital citizenship and what behaviours violate these principles. An in-depth understanding of these principles would allow the opportunity to all members of the digital world to contribute to an ethical, safe and inclusive environment.

Stay tuned for a follow up post where we will explore specific principles that are particularly relevant to accessibility as well as tips and tricks on how we can apply these principles in the real world!

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