Digital Citizenship: Teens Being Responsible Online

What is responsible digital citizenship?

Being a responsible digital citizen means having the online social skills to take part in online community life in an ethical and respectful way. Responsible digital citizenship also means: 

• behaving lawfully – for example, it’s a crime to hack, steal, illegally download or cause damage to other people’s work, identity or property online 

• protecting your privacy and that of others 

• recognising your rights and responsibilities when using digital media 

• thinking about how your online activities affect yourself, other people you know, and the wider online community. Responsible digital citizenship is different from the technical skills you need to use the internet, which is a part of media literacy. It’s also different from knowing how to avoid and stop cyberbullying.

What children and teenagers get out of being digital citizens

When they’re online, children and teenagers are mostly collaborative and social. 

For example, games like Minecraft allow children to work with others to build new worlds. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok help teenagers keep up with local and long-distance friendships, share experiences and support peers. 

The culture of sharing helps children and teenagers feel connected to a larger global community. As digital citizens, teenagers express themselves by sharing and posting comments, images and videos. They can explore who they are and take action on issues they care about by starting or signing online petitions, joining or creating online communities and interest groups, or just by creating content like animations or memes. 

Sometimes the anonymity of the internet can be a bonus – for example, if teenagers want help with issues they’re worried or embarrassed about. Finally, the internet gives teenagers good access to news and health information, and many turn to the internet first to understand themselves and the world. 

Children and teenagers connect socially both online and offline, but they might do things online that challenge your ideas about what’s normal or okay. This is often about discovery and self-expression, which are important for your child’s development.

Key messages for safe and responsible digital citizenship

These key messages can encourage your child to be safe and responsible online, while still having fun: 

• Be respectful – and expect respect. 

• Protect your reputation. 

• Protect your privacy. 

• Watch your tone. 

• Be sceptical.

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