Defining Digital Citizenship

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Originally posted on Medium

What does it mean to be a digital citizen?

When we think of what it means to be a citizen, we probably call to mind the country we reside in. Geographic locations whose foundation is based in laws, social rules, and morals. They also contain economies, business drivers, education systems, and other aspects of the “human experience.” It’s where we are born into the oldest social structure: Family.

Whatever family structure you come from, your core values are your roots. They shape your beliefs, drive your behavior, and create the foundation for your future.

As more and more people create their online presence, their worldview expands, and peoples and cultures that were once so foreign become a little more familiar. We’re able to connect instantly to people on the other side of the planet. No longer is our community defined solely by our location, neighborhood, school, and other local community groups. We may participate in YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms whose members span different provinces, countries, or even continents.

With such diversity of ethnicity, religion, and traditions, we find ourselves in a place where we need to start navigating and defining what it means to be a digital citizen. It has become increasingly important as young children begin to engage with Internet communities. As parents and guardians we cannot expect that our children will instinctively know how to engage with the content and relationships found online. Children mimic what they experience, whether in real life or online. As role models we must first understand and define digital citizenship, then practice and teach our kids. We should ask ourselves:

Do the spaces where we socialize reinforce our values?

When families start to consider moving geographies, they look at schools, churches, and other community services and resources. We ask ourselves, “Are these places we want to send our children?” We almost always do research when it comes to these physical spaces, however we don’t tend to ask the same question when it comes to the social technologies we adopt.

Somehow the rules we expect everyone to follow in society, have not translated into our expectations of the digital world. Values get set aside so that people can get a like on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Content that has no basis in truth is presented on these platforms and offered as fact, distorting people and especially children’s views and expectations of how society should and does work.

Defining our values

There are 7 core values we at Mazu believe will lead to a more positive digital village and affect our digital footprint: Creativity, Family, Fun, Hope, Respect, Truth, and Wisdom. As it relates to your online presence, we believe you should be asking 4 questions before every comment you make, every piece of content you like or share, and even as you decide the spaces you give your digital currency to (your likes, your time, your pictures, etc).

These 4 fundamental questions are:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair?
  • Will it build goodwill and friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all?

These questions were developed by Herbert J. Taylor back in the 1930’s and have since been adopted by the Rotary International and are still used today in many businesses as the standard for measuring all behaviour.

By starting a conversation around the 7 core values and by asking ourselves the 4 questions we can start a movement to create a more positive online experience, for ourselves and for our children, leaving behind footprints that inspire and encourage, that lead and strengthen. We can create a global digital village where everyone looks out for each other.

We want to dig to the heart of these values and will explore each one in depth over the next few weeks. Follow us on our journey into digital citizenship, share your thoughts, and let’s start to build a better digital village together.

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