About a week ago, my 5-year-old daughter asked me a question I was not quite prepared for. As we were walking back to our house from the neighborhood park, she asked, “Daddy, when am I going to get a cell phone?”
She went on to explain the specific ways in which a cell phone would benefit her life. She even assured me that she wasn’t too young for a cell phone. In fact, other kids her age already had one! Even though it was difficult saying no to her sweet little face, I explained that she would need to wait a few more years to take on this type of responsibility. But, why?
My daughter’s question really got me thinking. With so many young people having increasing access to technology, is it time for schools to take digital citizenship training more seriously?
What is digital citizenship?
Before we dive into why digital citizenship is important, let’s begin with discussing what it is. In a nutshell, digital citizenship is the safe and responsible practice of using digital technologies. All people who interact with digital technologies are digital citizens, however, responsible digital citizens are those who understand the potential risks and issues that can arise when using technology (LillyWhite, 2021). Responsible digital citizens desire to use technology respectfully, safely, and productively. Digital citizenship has been divided into nine key focus areas which include: digital access, digital etiquette, digital law, digital communication, digital literacy, digital commerce, digital rights and responsibilities, digital safety and security, and digital health and wellness (Ribble, 2021).
Why is digital citizenship important?
Due to the rise and accessibility of digital technology, more young people than ever have increasing access to it. As recent as 2019, one study found that 98.1 percent of U.S. kids between the ages of 3 and 18 lived in a household with a computer or smartphone (Riser-Kositsky, 2022). Beyond this, a greater number of school districts are moving toward 1:1 and BYOD initiatives due to a collective desire to help students gain the 21st century skills required for success in the digital age (Stauffer, 2022).
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