Communication is going digital, and in the last 30 years especially has thrown itself from the industrial age into the arms of the age of information and sharing. How ready are we for this transformation?

There’s a term that’s cropping up more frequently with every passing day: Social Media. Social Media have redefined global communications and changed the rules of communication in general. Every step we take in the digital medium is recorded, so clearly we need to be more careful and act accordingly. When creating content on digital media, we need to know the rules and constantly changing stakeholders of this new world, because we are no longer citizens only of the country we live in but citizens of a digital world where national borders have melted away. Even governments acknowledge this. So, let’s have a look at what a digital citizen needs to be aware of.

Who is a Digital Citizen?
A digital citizen is a person who is digitally literate and can engage in digital communication, who uses communications technology and information sources critically, who can use e-government applications, engage in e-commerce, receive education electronically, and who, when doing these things, conforms to the ethical rules of the digital medium and is aware of his rights and responsibilities.

What are the Dimensions of Digital Citizenship?

Digital Access:
Digital access over the internet takes two forms: content and commerce. When accessing either of them, you need to be aware that alongside trustworthy content and commercial websites, there is also a lot of false information out there, not to mention all the bogus commercial websites. 

Digital Commerce: When using any online banking system, it is important to protect your personal data and to carry out your transactions over secure websites. Individuals and companies should be aware of their responsibilities when developing a commercial website.

Digital Communications: Communication over the internet is done via social networks, which means there are certain contact risks involved. When you are communicating, especially in conversations with persons you don’t know, it is very easy to share personal information, either consciously or unwittingly, and your privacy may thereby be breached. 

Digital Literacy: Digital literacy is one of the most important aspects of digital citizenship. It is also important that individuals properly use the digital devices that are so common nowadays. Being digitally literate means using the internet correctly, accessing correct information and sharing only information you are confident is correct.

Digital Ethics: Using the internet ethically is as important as using it correctly. Criteria such as proper language and style and moral behavior are key to being a good digital citizen. Given that technology develops far faster than rules, we should not forget that there are ethical rules in the digital media just as there are in real life, and we have to follow them.

Digital Law: Just as there are laws we must obey in the physical world, so must we respect the law on the internet. Acting in accordance with the law is becoming more and more important from a legal standpoint.

Digital Rights & Responsibilities: The internet can be a medium in which everyone expresses himself freely. At the same time, this freedom of expression can also be restricted to the extent that it does not violate the personal freedom of others. These two factors constitute a delicate balance in terms of rights and responsibilities in the internet environment.

Digital Health:
It is generally the negative effects on health that we hear about in connection with the digital media.  When a digital citizen uses digital devices, especially computers and online technologies, he can be exposed to a number of health issues, both physical and psychological. Risky content and contacts on the internet are among the factors that can impact directly on the health of digital citizens.

Digital Security: Security in the digital medium is becoming as critical as bodily security in real life. A digital citizen should take the security of his personal data seriously and be aware of security on the webpages he visits on the internet. If not, the internet could pose grave security risks in terms of content, contacts and commerce.

Last but not least...
When defining digital citizenship just now, we mentioned nine key dimensions. Each one of them could be redefined in the context of real life. Therefore, we have no choice but to integrate our traditional concept of good citizenship with that of our new digital citizenship. 

Now and in the future, our cyber identities will continue to be the digital embodiments of our selves. Perhaps we are even going to see a time when those digital embodiments will take precedence over our existence as physical entities.

But whatever happens, there is one thing we must remember: digital or physical, however we choose to communicate, an honest, sincere and transparent conversation will always win in the end. Keeping those common values in mind, see you in the digital world...

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