9 Elements of Digital Citizenship to Impart to the Next Generation

June 22, 2023 • Shannon Flynn


Digital technology has dramatically transformed how people live their lives worldwide. As the years go on, technology will only become more integral to daily life. This means the next generation will have access to computer tech before they even learn to walk or speak.

Being able to use this new technology at a young age is both good and bad. As the saying goes: with great power comes great responsibility. Young children need to learn how to use computer technology responsibly. This is where the 9 elements of digital citizenship come in.

The Importance of Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship teaches children and young people how to use digital technology responsibly and positively. The Internet allows people to be more connected than ever before. People interact with each other no matter where they live in real-time. This connectedness, however, can be a double-edged sword.

Interactions on the Internet also allow people to be as anonymous as they choose to be. This can embolden certain people to act maliciously toward others without fear of repercussions. Young children are especially vulnerable to cyberbullying and harassment. 

Educating children on using digital technology responsibly and empathically can prevent cyberbullying before it begins. In many cases, cyberbullying can start because interactions over the Internet are not inherently empathetic. Young children might not understand a person is reading and replying to them — and that person can be hurt by their words. 

In addition, many cyber criminals on the Internet would take advantage of young people. These criminals prey on people to obtain their personal information to commit fraud. 

Those with more malicious intentions will pose as trustworthy adults to earn a young person’s trust. Studies show that child abductors use social media to interact with children anonymously. 

Teaching kids to practice good habits on social media is a part of digital citizenship. Only interacting and accepting friend requests from people they know is something all children should be aware of in the 21st century. 

Because of these factors, parents, educators and government officials should teach the next generation of users the 9 elements of digital citizenship.

The 9 Elements of Digital Citizenship

The principles of digital citizenship consist of nine elements or themes. These embody the core tenants that digital citizenship studies should impart to students.

Digital Access

Digital access is the distribution of digital technology and resources among young people. Parents, teachers, and administrators should be aware of the digital community around them. 

This is essential for monitoring the digital habits of young people to protect them. 

In addition, educators can use the digital community to provide tools for lessons and data collection. Students can access these learning materials online from home.

Digital Commerce

Digital commerce refers to the buying and selling of goods and services over the Internet. Teaching kids and young people to spend money responsibly on the Internet is essential in today’s world. Students should understand the importance of money and the hazards of excessive spending online.

Digital Etiquette

Digital etiquette is the standard of interaction over the Internet. Teaching empathy and kindness is essential as interactions over social media sites and video game chat rooms become more common.

Digital Communication

Learning how to communicate effectively over the Internet goes hand in hand with digital etiquette. The sharing of information and thoughts has never been easier, thanks to computer technology. Young people should learn how to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively over the Internet to express themselves.

Digital Fluency

Digital fluency is the ability to understand technology and its uses. Parents and educators should make it their goal to make young people as digitally literate as possible, especially at a young age. The more knowledge children have, the more likely they are to make good online decisions.

Digital fluency also includes the ability to tell information from disinformation. Because social media and the Internet are open channels, young people can be exposed to a lot of information. Being able to discern what information is true and what is not is an important skill.

Digital Health and Welfare

Digital health covers the physical and psychological effects digital technology has on people. Computer technology offers a wealth of entertainment and information — sometimes too much. Addiction to social media and video games is very real in today’s world and can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. 

Digital citizenship should teach children and young people how to use technology in moderation to keep them mentally healthy. Parents and educators must set limits for technology at home and school to teach young people good habits.

Digital Law

While people think of the digital landscape as the Wild West, new rules and laws are being enacted regularly as the world becomes more dependent on technology. Digital laws protect users from cyberbullying, fraud and harassment of any kind. Young people should be familiar with these regulations and the protections they provide.

Digital Rights and Responsibilities

Along with digital laws, young people should know what rights people have when using the Internet. Just like in the real world, these rights belong to everyone equally. Helping others and being kind is just as crucial in the digital world as in the real one. 

In addition, reporting malicious behavior such as cyberbullying or coercion is essential to protecting the community. Young people should learn to look out for and protect each other — children especially.

Digital Security and Privacy

Like in the real world, digital security is important for protecting privacy. Attacks by cybercriminals are on the rise and will only escalate as computer technology grows more advanced. Young people should be educated early on on the dangers of malware attacks and phishing scams.

Being able to recognize the most common forms of cyberattacks can allow kids and young adults to protect themselves from any threat actors while surfing the Internet. In addition, good cybersecurity habits, such as visiting only trusted websites and not clicking on internet ads, must be taken seriously.

Teaching Digital Citizenship is Essential

Making young people familiar with the 9 elements of digital citizenship will only become more relevant as time goes on. The next generation will be more dependent on technology and, therefore, more vulnerable. The teachings of digital citizenship are essential to safeguarding future generations.