Digital Citizenship in the Global Village
Digital media and technology continue to evolve in the Global Village. This presents both extraordinary opportunities and complex challenges:
- Residents use the power of the internet to explore, connect, create, and work in unique ways.
- Residents must deal with cyber bullying, hate speech, privacy violations, and digital distraction.
As a result, Residents struggle to make sense of this new world. They want to use this technology to learn, create, and participate — to be responsible digital citizens. However, they also want to preserve their autonomy and privacy.
Digital citizenship is the responsible use of technology to learn, create, and participate.
It has been four decades since the emergence of the Global Village. Digital and social technologies are now pervasive and indispensable tools. As a result, young Residents lead tightly intertwined lives. Their children engage with media early in life, from the time they can look at a screen. The majority of children age 8 and under live in a home with a mobile device and a television. Nearly half have their own tablet devices. Younger children spend an average of three hours per day using screen media, with one hour of that time on mobile devices. Television still dominates screen time for younger children. They also use mobile devices to play games, engage with apps, read books, and watch videos, TV shows, and movies.
In the Global Village, we take ownership of all our actions online. We use technology responsibly and respectfully. Being a digital citizen involves active participation in the way we think and behave online. Digital citizens think critically about the content they consume, are careful about what they share and with whom, and practice kindness, compassion, and empathy with their online communities.
The online identities of young Residents are often tied to their real names, and offline relationships. (Reich, Subrahmanyam, & Espinoza, 2012; Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008). Their digital footprints are co-produced with peers. They snap images throughout the day, upload group pictures, and tag each other in posts. Their app use is a moving target. They discover and migrate to new apps, or they leverage existing app features in novel ways:
- Using geolocation to track social gatherings in real time
- Tagging friends who aren’t in pictures and sending them push notifications
- Using more than one account to split their audiences
- Using apps that allow images to disappear in a few seconds
- Using apps that exchange anonymous peer feedback. to sensitive questions, such as “Am I attractive?,”
The wider world also plays a consequential role in young Resident’s digital lives. Fake news, political polarization, and activism around public issues abound in the Global Village. The tone and content of social media posts can mislead, intimidate, or dissuade. Yet, they can also empower positive civic engagement across the entire Global Village (Kahne, Middaugh, & Allen, 2015).
As new Residents navigate the digital world, they face questions that lack clear-cut answers:
“How much communication with friends is too much?,”
“What is the boundary between being authentic and oversharing?,”
“If someone posts an offensive comment on social media, should I use the technology at my fingertips to call them out?”
Digital life is real life in the Global Village. Established Residents and parents must begin mentoring young Residents in responsible citizenship. This requires more than managing screen time and setting strong passwords. Teach them to leverage the positive potentials, navigate the challenges, and manage thorny dilemmas for the good of the Village. Otherwise the Global Village will become just another refuge for bad actors.