Digital Citizenship has become a buzzword of 21st century education. But what does it mean to be a good digital citizen? An initial reaction to this question might be that when using technology, a good digital citizen refrains from participating in cyberbullying or consuming pornography and will demonstrate etiquette when communicating. While digital citizenship actually encompasses much more than this limited scope, one big question still remains. For today's society, one in which we communicate virtually through text messages and social media, make purchases online, download books immediately, and even order pizza using an app on our phones, why are using the word "digital" with citizenship? In today's society, when using technology is the norm, shouldn't this just be citizenship? Period?
A good citizen is defined as a person who properly fulfills their role as a member of society. This is the person who helps a neighbor out, who is supportive and active in local education, church, or government activities. The good citizen follows the old rule of "don't say anything if you don't have anything nice to say." They are dependable, and above all, they demonstrate and deserve respect. Isn't this the same behavior we want to see online, in social media, and in the digital communications we receive?
Our society needs to stop separating technology use as a separate action or product. The Pew Research Center reports that in 2014, 85% of American adults use the Internet, and 64% of American adults own a smartphone. The majority of today's teenagers do not remember not having technology available to them. Technology is a method of communication for society today. Whether it be through text messages, email, or social media, it can open doors, simplify, and streamline our efforts to include not only members of our immediate community, but our entire world.
Separating citizenship and digital citizenship into two different realms creates a mindset that they are two separate things, and that one can take precedence over another. We want our world to function as a responsible society, with respectful students that grow into respectful and responsible adults. We want all members of our society to value communication, regardless of whether it is face-to-face or assisted by technology. Let's start embracing this as a whole. Let's just be good citizens.