DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP

“Technology opens the door to the world. It’s up to us to walk through it in a meaningful and respectful way.”

Let’s break the two words and start with what is the latter word. Citizenship can be defined as “the quality of an individual’s response to the membership in a community.” By this definition, it can be understood as a form of self-knowledge, communication, and awareness about a place, its habitats, and its history. Now, let’s compile the two words that are, digital citizenship, which means sensible use and handling of technology by the public accessing any digital devices, the internet, to connect with the society.

In this post-modern era, digitization is hiking up every single minute. As a society, we are becoming more and more dependent and attached to digital gadgets and the internet, for our mundane activities. From online banking, purchasing products from websites, work from home to simply connecting with a friend or family. Research shows that especially during this pandemic, more than 60% of the world’s population is heavily under the influence of the internet and electronic gadgets. This is the primary reason why a difference must be made and considered between, a bad versus good, digital citizenship. The latter means one who connects young people and guides them through connection with one another, over a digital tool. Bad citizenship, on the other hand, commits to cybercrime like cyberbullying, irresponsible and unsafe usage of the internet.

To wrap up, digital citizenship basically means taking the responsibility and care of the aspects we depend on, digitally. However, this concept is not easily understandable to many youngsters since we have this habit of linking citizenship to a political aspect. Nevertheless, any action performed by us is linked to the national status of global citizenship, as both are mutually dependent.

Now let’s move ahead and make a difference between digital citizenship and digital leadership. While the former means handling the internet in a mindful and responsible manner which is also ethical in nature, the latter means, using the same platform to e better the lives of others. However, what is the purpose of such a shift? Since a huge portion of our mundane lives is dependent on this digital platform and the internet, it is important for such a change to occur. Thus, since a huge portion of our lives are embedded on the internet where we learn and share, it is important to distinguish between a good versus bad, digital citizen. This brings us to another concern, do schools need to teach about digital citizenship?

We are all aware of the wide usage of mobile phones and laptops among children in this post-modern era. Every other child is well versed with how to download a game, what apps are in trend, etc. This leads to a lot of cyberbullying as well as an unethical use of the internet. Children, out of curiosity, may often eye upon an adult picture or video or even bully other children, as part of their entertainment. We cannot come to a conclusion as to who is the culprit for this action. Is it the children who have access to the gadget or maybe the parents? Or, is the school that is promoting the usage of gadgets even inside the school? Schools mostly forward online educational resources which are taught digitally. It can hence be argued that it is a combination of all. This is a primary reason why schools must engage in teaching extensively about digital citizenship, in this era.

The primary reason as to why schools must teach digital citizenship is a growing gap between what a student does with their gadgets versus what they could do with the gadget. The gap will only increase if schools do not talk and enlighten the students about these issues. A gadget can be used for extraordinary purposes by the student thus, making them excel in fields. Various online educational resources can be accessed by the student to gain knowledge. However, it can also be used in an unethical manner by other students thus, hampering and destroying their career and growth. Digital footprints are another cause of teaching about the topic in schools. Various organizations, colleges try to access and judge the candidate via their social media profiles. The way one must present themselves, their accomplishments, interest, etc must be structured in a way that catches the attention of the employer. Thus, to learn and share about this tactic must start at school.

Multitasking and learning and share digitally is the way of life in this post-modern tech-savvy era. Every student must be learned to multitask as when they step out in the real world, they can handle the sudden pressure and juggle. From juggling between different windows on the internet to jiggling between different assignments and tasks, the student must be well aware of such happenings. The last yet, not the least, is on the internet, a student can learn and hone anything and everything. From cooking classes, dance classes, to academic knowledge, everything is available on the internet. We must only use it wisely and be good digital citizens, to emancipate ourselves as well as the society, as a whole.

Especially in this pandemic, we are all witnesses to the sudden change from the physical sphere to the technological sphere. All educational institutions, offices, counsellings, even celebrations are now taking place digitally. Physicality has been reduced to a great extent due to this pandemic which is why, the need for digital citizenship as a course in schools, is even more important. A child must be aware of this new medium of connection and how to use it wisely. They must be taught about the limitations and crimes associated with this medium and what are its consequences. On the same hand, they must be told the advantages as well as opportunities associated with this medium. Various job interviews, new friendships, and relations take place technologically. If such technological advancement and the wide usage of the internet were not available, we all would become unproductive and jobless during this pandemic.

Kids these days are growing up in a digital playground where nobody is assigned the role of recess duty. This is why it is crucial for each and every one of us to understand the importance of being a good digital citizen. Millions of cyberbullying, leaking private images, scam messages, so on and so forth take place these days. Several scam digital games are circulated such as “The Blue Whale” where the kid is directed to harm themselves, physically and mentally. In the Blue Whale, the kid was threatened to cut themselves on the wrist or their families would be murdered, a very hypnotizing song was played and the kid would ultimately jump off the terrace, as directed by the game. This is an example of how serious crimes can become, digitally.

It is highly crucial at this age and time to acknowledge the use of digital gadgets and the internet for our mundane lives. Thus, digital citizenship must be elaborately and extensively taught at educational institutions. Millions of cybercrime take place every year where a huge percentage take away their lives as it gets very crucial. Thus, the need arises to educate and acknowledge the pros and cons of this medium. Every individual must know what it is to become a good digital citizen as well as a leader. While society continues to be tech-savvy and digitally based, we must acknowledge and be aware of this medium and our roles in it.

Teethi Nag, Content Writer

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