Against a backdrop of public concerns about abuses experienced in online social media environments, and calls for stronger regulation of the industry, companies have been at pains to emphasise the safeguards in place and the policies adopted that encourage safe, responsible use of their services. In this context, digital citizenship is a concept that online service providers have increasingly embraced as an expression of the values of positive online interaction they wish to promote.

The consultation highlighted that more than a quarter of funding for digital citizenship projects came from the private sector.  Most major internet companies have accordingly recently developed bespoke initiatives to promote digital citizenship on their platforms, often in partnership with external organisations to counterbalance the main focus of industry codes of conduct, which is to define minimum standards of safety that industry undertake to provide.

Implication for Policy or Practice

Accordingly, the main responsibility to which companies should commit voluntarily is raising awareness and user education. Thus, the idea of the principles of safer social networking being the responsibility of industry refers to the need to ‘create clear, targeted guidance and educational materials designed to give children and young people the tools, knowledge and skills they need to navigate their services safely.

Many companies will need to substantially revise their Terms and Conditions so that they are sufficiently simple, concise, visible, clear and accessible to and appropriate for children including child-friendly consent processes.

Industry participation in digital citizenship may therefore be more broadly described as supportive of a multi-stakeholder approach to shared responsibility, namely an approach in which it is recognised that only through collaboration with all relevant partners at governmental level, in civil society, with educators and with communities of users will the appropriate conditions for effective digital citizenship be created.