Educational sheet 14


Level : Intermediate

Educational goals

Objective 1: Understanding the concept of ‘digital citizenship’

Objective 2: Giving specific examples of best practices on the internet

Objective 3: Highlighting the limits of ‘digital citizenship’

What is digital citizenship?

Nowadays, it is difficult or even impossible to live either our professional or private lives without the internet. As ubiquitous as it is, however, it is worthwhile learning how best to use the internet, which includes having better control and understanding of our digital lives.


Definition: Digital citizenship refers to the way in which internet users behave and interact online. Essentially, it is the behaviour we adopt in our online interactions with other users when dealing with sensitive topics of a social or political nature. The rights and obligations we have in real life are the same online. Our behaviour and interactions also define how others perceive us on the internet. At the same time, the way we connect online is not just limited to how we act or what we post, it is also defined by how we protect our privacy in terms of passwords, location, and internet history.


This means that digital citizenship also asks us to have a critical view of the internet and how we use it, especially when it comes to the personal information we share, sometimes without knowing it.


Best digital practices

Definition: ‘Best practices’ refer to both the way we should behave to make the internet a place of freedom and mutual respect as well as the rules that websites and apps require us to follow. In fact, many sites and web services set rules of conduct and rights of users.


Example: The web application Twitter gives this advice for using its tools:


Consider what you Tweet. You are in control of how much information you share on Twitter or any other website. Don’t post information you consider to be private, and be thoughtful about when you want to publicly share your location. Be wary of any communication that asks for your private contact information, personal information, or passwords. If you are ever unsure before you Tweet, we recommend you ask yourself the following questions: Who am I sharing this information with? How much and what type of information am I sharing? How many people can see the information I am sharing? Can I trust all the people that see this information?


But the app also has some essential rules:


Violence: You may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people. We also prohibit the glorification of violence. Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.


It is therefore useful to remember as much as possible that our virtual behaviour has a real impact on people and that online harassment, for example, can lead to real-life tragedy.


On the other hand, the internet nowadays also represents a real instrument for the people. It makes it possible for citizens to be more informed and democracy more participative, as well as making access to information much more fluid. It is a tool that enables the discussion of ideas, communication, and can be used to speak out against dangers and risks to society at large, as is the case of ‘whistleblowers’ who use the internet to denounce corruption or attacks on liberties (see the film/documentary Citizenfour on Edward Snowden).



Maintaining a digital footprint and a positive mindset

Definition: Your digital footprint is the sum total of information on the internet about your online activity. It is an image of you, built up according to your behaviour and posts and your personal choices.


For this reason, it is important to keep a positive digital footprint! You can keep a blog on a particular topic, share your talents, film a video tutorial, collect money for a charitable cause, or help to organise events. The list of possibilities to transform your digital footprint is endless!

Go further

6 really practical ways to protect your privacy online

Citizenfour: A 2014 documentary by Laura Poitras about Edward Snowden’s revelations and the NSA’s worldwide espionage scandal