Supporting children and young people to participate safely, effectively, critically and responsibly in a world filled with social media and digital technologies is a priority for educators the world over. The notion of digital citizenship has evolved to encompass a range of competences, attributes and behaviours that harness the benefits and opportunities the online world affords while building resilience to potential harms.

Young people today inhabit a world that has been transformed by digital technologies, effortlessly enabling connectedness through social media and access to vast quantities of information. Making sense of this hyper rich information and engaging effectively and responsibly poses a whole set of new challenges for educators as they seek to prepare young people as citizens, exercising their rights and participating effectively in the affairs of the community.

Our working definition of digital citizenship places particular emphasis on the role of education, emphasising the continuous process of lifelong learning affecting all contexts in which educational support for digital citizenship takes place, transversally and seamlessly. The notion of Digital Citizenship Education (DCE), therefore, views education as both the spark and as effect of a process of citizenship. In this section, we focus on three aspects of digital citizenship education – stakeholder roles and responsibilities; scenarios for school organisation and preparing teachers – as the basis of an implementation strategy.

Digital Citizenship

Digital Citizenship refers to the ability to engage positively, critically and competently in the digital environment, drawing on the skills of effective communication and creation, to practice forms of social participation that are respectful of human rights and dignity through the responsible use of technology.

A more elaborate definition of Digital Citizenship is:

 The competent and positive engagement with digital technologies (creating, working, sharing, socializing, investigating, playing, communicating and learning); participating actively and responsibly (values, skills, attitudes, knowledge) in communities (local, national, global) at all levels (political, economic, social, cultural and intercultural); being involved in a double process of lifelong learning (in formal, informal and non-formal settings) and continuously defending human dignity.

The Council of Europe’s Competences for Democratic Culture (Council of Europe, 2016) provides the starting point for this approach to digital citizenship, noting that the competences which citizens need to acquire if they are to participate effectively in a culture of democracy are not acquired automatically but instead need to be learned and practised. As such, education has a vital role to play in preparing young people to live as active citizens and helping them acquire the skills and competences needed.

Digital Citizenship Education

Digital Citizenship Education is the empowerment of children through education or the acquisition of competences for learning and active participation in digital society.

This is the knowledge, skills and understanding required  for  users  to  exercise  and  defend  their  democratic  rights  and responsibilities online, and to promote and protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law in cyberspace.

At its simplest level, it seeks to ensure that those who are not “digital natives” or do not have opportunities to become “digital citizens”, or “digizens”, are not marginalised in future society. With the development of relatively inexpensive technology, the “digital gap” is more likely to be a gap in skills required to make advanced use of the technology than access to technology per se.

In a number of countries, schools are introducing “Digital Citizenship Education” to encourage young people to develop their online proficiency, engagement and creativity as well as an awareness of the legal implications of their online activity.

Digital citizenship represents a new dimension of citizenship education that focuses on teaching students to work, live and share in digital environments in a positive way.