Trolls, cancelling, endless scrolling, data collections, manipulations – the internet can be a tricky place.
But first things first – I’m sure you wonder: “What is digital citizenship and how can I get one?” The short answer is, if you read this you are a digital citizen. Different from nation states that can make it quite difficult for some people to gain citizenship, the internet takes you with open arms. No requirements and no questions asked.
While that sounds great and like the only one place that does not discriminate in one way or another – there are dangers that come with this openness too.
With but a few rules in place, we have to take on the responsibility ourselves to make sure we’re not harmed and do not harm others online.
Here are 5 ways in which we can all contribute to responsible internet usage and to protect ourselves and others from harm:
1. Protecting Our Devices
This means to make sure that in case our devices get stolen or lost, people won’t have easy access to our personal information.
It also means to update our computers regularly so that there are no security gaps on our device and to use virus protection on our device if necessary.
And it means to be cautious when opening emails and clicking links.
It also includes backing up our data on a regular basis.
2. Protecting Our Privacy
Protecting our privacy includes not sharing our personal information electronically with people we do not know (chat, phone or email) or on websites we do not trust.
It means to be conscious about the information we share on Social Media or otherwise publicly and to make sure not to share anything about other people, without prior consent, especially children.
Imagine our parents or caregivers had shared all our baby pictures with the whole world to see.
Our privacy will be protected by law more and more and modern browsers such as Firefox and Safari already offer ways to surf more privately.
And while most companies and websites already adhere to common data security standards we need to fight more to stop bigger companies such as google or Facebook to track our every move.
You can see what Google knows about you here: https://www.google.com/settings/u/0/ads
3. Behavig with Intention
On the internet the same rules should apply as in real life.
We should be polite, helpful and take a critical look at how we conduct ourselves online.
As responsible digital citizen we should model the behaviour we are looking for as well.
What would it cost to actively try to present ourselves as the best version of ourselves online, just like you might on any other outing?
We shouldn’t use harsh, crass or aggressive language and acknowledge that sarcasm doesn’t really work online, since people don’t see our body language or facial expression.
Basically, we should treat people the way that we’d want to be treated and by all means try to de-escalate wherever possible.
No bullying and seeking help or speaking up when we notice or are victims of cyber-bullying.
It is also important that we educate ourselves about copyright and fair use policies, so that we’re not accidentally breaking the law and getting ourselves in trouble without even knowing.
4. Checking-in with Ourselves
Looking after our physical and mental health is important.
How do we sit? How many hours do we use our computers and what effect does that have on our well-being? Have we been outside today?
We look out for possible signs of internet addiction, eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome or repetitive stress syndrome.
One of the most important questions to ask is: why do we do what we do?
Is our shopping compulsive? Do we post make a post because we want the validation or because we have a message that we want to share?
5. Educating Ourselves & Others
Who has access to digital services? As responsible digital citizens we should also make sure that access to digital services is provided to all, regardless of socioeconomic status, abilities, and physical location.
An important issue today is providing equal access to technology for all students, and helping educators get trained so that they can support their students.
Digital rights and responsibilities help to shape and ensure the freedoms that everyone should be able to enjoy online, but rights come with responsibilities. We need to be aware of our own rights and responsibilities in the location and network we are using, and share this information with others if they don’t know.
And most importantly, as society progresses, we all need to contribute to positive, respectful conversations about our rights and responsibilities as a digital citizen to help define the proper use of new technologies for the future.
I know that leading by example can be tough and exhausting. But we’re at a point in time when not all our cultural and political leaders have caught up with the requirements of the internet, and so we need to take on part of the responsibility ourselves.
That’s why we all need to get better at being digital citizens and help others get better too.
Thank you for doing your part in making the internet and whole world, a better, safer and more fun place to be.