Digital Citizenship; a reflection inspired by Jason Ohler

Citizenship has of course a great meaning to us all. We are all citizens. Citizens of our communities, citizens of our countries.
Neighbourhood Watch


1. A person owing loyalty to and entitled by birth or naturalization to the protection of a state or nation.

2. A resident of a city or town, especially one entitled to vote and enjoy other privileges there.

3. A civilian.

4. A native, inhabitant, or denizen of a particular place

Citizenship was one of the subjects obligated to be taught at my previous English school. It covered Responsibility, democracy and justice, Identity, representation among others. Do any these sound like good things to know when online? After a very affective seminar with Jason Ohler about Digital citizenship it is clear that we as educators and parents need to be teaching about how to be a good citizen on the internet. An informed citizen that understands the impacts and consequences of what they do online. Students and all internet users seem to have ‘inhibitions’ on the internet. It is as if it is just them and their laptop for a lots of people and what is said is just between them and the device. In fact Jason Ohler explains that this is the opposite when communicating, posting researching online we are leaving a ‘digital footprint and this is like standing in a stadium full of people watching you. Every sing thing that you do on the internet is recorded. I believe that as adults we are slightly more skeptical of using the internet as we have the life experience that makes us often more sensible. Students on the other hand do not have the same experience. It is a powerful as giving a child a 10 tonne truck to drive. It can be dangerous if you do not know how to use it correctly and you have not been taught the highway code. It seems our perception with the internet is that is it is not physical so it is not happening that is why analogies can often be far more effective when talking to students about digital citizenship. Another strategy that Jason Ohler described to use with students is almost shock tactics which Jeff Utecht has talked about. Show students their Facebook networks, show them the breeches in their privacy settings. Show them the twitter post that you have seen or the image that was posted. Show them just how far they make an impact.
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A great way for students to understand this concept that our lives are not private online, even when we try to be careful is by asking them to create a resume of themselves but they can only use information found on the internet. This concept is a hard hitting reality for a lot of students and I am sure adults. We are now represented on the internet and perspective employers, partners, schools, coaches etc will be able to see how you are represented online. Everything students do online needs to be thought about twice and that is something that teenager’s don’t often connect with, unfortunately.


When we talk about citizens we are talking about characteristics, now teaching character education was stopped in America as it was thought that you can’t make everyone the same character. This is not the case with Digital citizenship though, it is teaching the core attitudes, such as responsibility. We want our children and students to be safe, we are constantly teaching them how to do this in life from when they are babies. Online is a whole other world that we as teachers do not feel we can often go because this is the students space but this is the opposite of what we as educators need to be doing. We need to be opening up the lines of communication with our students and as we will not be there to hold their hands when they are on the internet we need to give the skills set to be able to manage themselves and make the right choices alone. The internet constantly challenges users with ethical decisions to make, whether it be to copy an image to use for a presentation without asking for permission or watching a downloaded copy of a film. The question is, “how can we make students the neighbours we want them to be?” because after all we are living in the same neighbourhood online.

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