I think the idea of Digital Citizenship is out of date.
I know that this is a controversial statement to make but let me explain my thinking. I think the idea of Digital Citizenship was created to help explain and understand the differences between citizenship in the “real world” and citizenship in the online world. I feel that this distinction was necessary and might still be necessary, for those of us who are not digital natives. We are adults who have known a time before the explosion of the internet, social media, Skype, Google, YouTube…. For us the need to categorize and separate “real” citizenship from digital citizenship has been important in making sense of this new world.
“Real” citizenship is important and has been for centuries. It allows human beings to function and thrive as a species. It provides people with the norms for engagement, the ability to interact, a structure for security and the rights and responsibilities that we hold so dear. We give this type of citizenship top billing, and make it all important. By so doing digital citizenship becomes an add on…an extra…something you can take or leave.
But what if we switch the lens? What if we don’t look at citizenship through our adult eyes? What if we try to look at it from the perspective of a child? I think of my 5-year-old daughter. She is growing up in a world where technology is common place. She has never seen a world where smart phones did not exist. She has never seen a paper newspaper in our home. She has never gone to a video store to rent a movie. She has never known a time where talking to grandma didn’t include a video as well as voice (she is a Facetime wiz).
Through her eyes she sees the use of Twitter…blogging…commenting on others ideas…emailing…texting as a part of life. These are not new for her, these are the way the world interacts. For her the distinction between “real” citizenship and digital citizenship does not exist. It is all just citizenship. Being digital is a part of being a citizen. It is not an add on or an extra…it just is.
My job as her parent, is to guide her in becoming an ethical and contributing member of society, but this society is not limited to the “real” world. For her real includes digital and as such I need to guide her in her citizenship online as well. All of the things I inspire to teach her are the same no matter which world we are talking about.
My wish for her is that she grows up to be a learner, a leader, an ethical person who makes a difference in this world, and this world includes digital.
In order to do this I need to look through her eyes, embrace the world she knows, and not be limited by an out of date construct.