Being Online

Being online illustrates the contextual preconditions for digital citizenship: access to digital technology, basic functional and digital literacy skills and a secure technical infrastructure.

In Europe today, 79.6% of citizens were reported to be internet users in 2017, indicating that more than one in five Europeans are not yet online. This figure rises to more than half of citizens worldwide, since just 48.0% of people in the world were internet users at the end of the first quarter of 2017. Out of all member countries of the Council of Europe, almost 20 fall below the European benchmark. In 2014, only nine Council of Europe member countries in the OECD (2016) were considered to provide an equitable level of access through their education systems.


Children and young people need to be empowered and educated to ask for help and develop the support needed to become resilient. 

Olivia, 15, Denmark

Although seemingly no more recent data is available on the level of access to internet in schools, which, for certain sectors of the population, is the main source of equal opportunities, anecdotal evidence through youth participation suggests that this is low. A March 2015 Eurostat report states: “The vast majority of young people used the internet at home, while about half made use of the internet at other people’s houses and about 40% at a place of education”.


Teachers must be present and active in children’s lives from the earliest ages – babies, toddlers and young children – because creating a strong foundation will greatly support their online and offline behaviours in later years.

Early childhood development teacher, Riga

With respect to basic digital literacy, too many children, even in Europe, are unable to benefit, or at least fully benefit, from basic education because of poverty, their gender, their ethnicity or where they live. The OECD (2016) estimates, for example, that 168 000 15-year-olds in France do not yet have the basic knowledge and skills needed to thrive in modern societies, and adults in only seven European OECD countries perform at the benchmark level on the literacy scale.

Cultural and social obstacles to equitable access and inclusion and to the development of basic digital literacy skills are equally difficult to overcome, and are not always directly related to the socio-economic status of families. Today we are seeing quite another form of digital divide, with technology-rich children at risk through poorly supervised and/or excessive access to technology, often in very early childhood, to the detriment of age-appropriate social and physical pursuits. This can result in young children skipping developmental stages in early childhood, thereby incurring a long-lasting impact on their educational potential.


There is a big overlap between being a citizen in the “real world” and being a digital citizen. Some people who protest online get a false sense of doing something, and often don’t even go to vote in elections.

European Parents Association

A balance between on- and offline activities is important for children and people of all ages, for the development of empathy, observation and listening skills, and co-operation strategies, which are all key competences in digital citizenship. Knowledge and critical understanding of self, too, is a stepping stone to becoming an active citizen, and today includes knowing when and how to use or not use technology, as well as understanding the impact and reach of our actions and words in the digital space.

    I believe that intensive studies should be done so that parents can make educated decisions on how much time their child is on digital media. The importance is to have an urgency here, not to find out 10 or 20 years from now how and to what degree digital media has debilitated our children.

Parent, France