11 Important Skills that Every Digital Citizen Should Possess
11 must have digital citizenship skills. Know how to be responsible online: browsing, cyberbullying, privacy, copyrights, research, and more.
From social media to online shopping, we rely on technology to communicate, learn, start a business, and—the biggest reason yet—to entertain ourselves. But with the convenience of technology, comes responsibility.
Digital citizenship is a term that’s been tossed around quite a bit lately, but what exactly does it mean? Well, it refers to the way in which people use technology and internet resources—whether right or wrong. For example, everyone that uses technology could be defined as a digital citizen, but only a good digital citizen knows how to be responsible with their online presence and show proper online etiquette. Here are eleven essential skills every digital citizen should have:
1. Security should always be first in mind when browsing online.
The internet can be a dangerous place if you are not careful. Every digital citizen should always keep security in mind when exercising their right to move about the internet freely. This means using strong passwords, avoiding suspicious links and websites, and keeping antivirus software up-to-date.
2. Understand that technology is a means to an end.
Maintaining this opinion of technology is essential to the way a good digital citizen should operate. Yes, it’s fun to use technology to communicate with peers or learn about your favorite hobby, but what people always forget is that the internet is just the tool that’s used to do all those things you love: And it’s a dangerous tool nonetheless.
By creating a false sense of security, the internet can encourage anyone to act outside themselves and do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. Someone who understands that technology is merely a tool—and a traceable one at that—may be more likely to avoid plagiarism, respect others' privacy, and not engage in illegal activities such as hacking. Which brings us to the next skill.
3. Understand copyright & creative rights.
We are in an age where creative ideas are gushing out of people left and right. But with an increase in creativity comes magnified attempts at copyright infringement—some born from ignorance, others not. The concept of side hustles is the talk of the internet right now—people selling personally designed hoodies and other creative products. And it’s important for everyone, particularly those participating in these creative startups, to know when and how to use other people’s ideas.
An online content creator, for example, should have a strong understanding of how copyright law works. This means educating themselves with laws and regulations around copyright and ensuring that they are not infringing on others' creative ownership. To certify yourself as a good digital citizen, take some time to get educated on copyright laws—what’s okay to sell, what’s not okay to sell, and so on.
4. Have a good understanding of password protection.
In this world, passwords are everything: They are life. Which is why password protection is critical. Every digital citizen should have a good understanding of how to keep their passwords safe including utilizing strong passwords, not sharing passwords with others, not using the same password for multiple accounts, and changing passwords regularly.
Illustration: Sergiy Maidukov
5. Know how to protect yourself from cyberbullying and harassment online.
The truth of the matter is, this isn’t always the easiest skill to learn or use. Cyberbullying attacks can be hard to handle for anyone, but there are actions you can take to fight back. Blocking and reporting the aggressor as well as seeking help from a professional are the first steps you’d take.
6. Be constantly aware of how your actions affect others on the internet.
The internet is a public space and your actions have consequences. Digital citizens should be aware of how their actions affect others—both positively and negatively. This means avoiding cyberbullying, hate speech, and being respectful of others' opinions and beliefs. No trolling allowed.
Essentially, a digital footprint is the existence of information about an individual that exists purely based on their activity while searching the web—what a person likes, what they post, the information they provide on certain sites, their browser history, etc. All of those components are what makes up someone’s digital footprint.
7. Take ownership over your online presence.
Taking ownership means creating a positive digital footprint or collection of information about oneself that exists online. Make sure that it is content that is accurate and authentic to you as an individual or the organization/company you represent. Be mindful of the content you post and make sure that it reflects well on both you and your employer.
8. Recognize when personal information is being collected about online users without their knowledge or consent.
Every digital citizen should be aware of the risks associated with data collection and take steps to protect their privacy. Websites generally use software to gain information about their customers including demographics and how the customers use their site. For example, have you ever had a site ask you to indicate why you’re choosing to leave their home page when you try to go back or exit their website? This is because that site is tracking your movements. By tracking your movements, companies know how you arrive at their site and how many pages you visit while you're there. Better yet, all of this data is collected and saved. Websites can even record your computer’s ID and your IP address—both of which are unique and can be traced back to you.
A good digital citizen will know which websites use and sell collected data such as phone numbers, email addresses, and more to market products and make money and learn how to protect themselves from giving them too much information.
9. Practice the ability to research topics quickly and thoroughly.
Research skills are essential. For example, it’s not uncommon to reach for our phones and use our most beloved search engine to answer questions that arise through social conversation or political upheaval. To be acknowledged as a good digital citizen, you need to know how to identify credible sources of information and use critical thinking skills to evaluate the information you find. This doesn’t mean taking the first answer that suits your opinion and using it.
Though there is a surge of information at our fingertips, not all of it is true. The takeover of misinformation from uneducated netizens is a pandemic in itself. The only cure is an army of good digital citizens that refuse to accept the first answer they see without careful consideration to the truth.
10. Know what personal information is available online about yourself and others.
Understanding what a digital footprint is and how it impacts your online presence is top priority for a good digital citizen. The fact that there’s a need for the term “digital footprint” is proof enough that privacy is limited when online.
11. Understand and practice a healthy online and offline balance.
The effects of technology can be detrimental to our physical and mental wellbeing if we’re not careful. A good digital citizen will know the risks of spending too much time online, texting and driving, scrolling through social media rather than sleeping, or putting too much stock in what people say about them on the internet.
Digital citizenship skills make all the difference for anyone who is consistently online and are essential for every digital citizen to possess and practice regularly. By practicing these skills, you’ll be able to navigate the online world safely and responsibly. Remember, the internet is a public space, and your actions have consequences. Be mindful of your online presence, protect your privacy, and use technology responsibly.
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