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People in the modern world live two very distinct lives. There’s the person who wakes up every morning, has breakfast and goes out into the world to work, study and socialise with other people. As a culture, we know this type of person well. We’ve built our various penal codes and law books around making sure these people don’t hurt each other, kill each other or generally misbehave.

The other life that people lead is a far more recent phenomenon that springs to life whenever someone connects to the internet. While they don’t physically exist and aren’t capable of causing anyone direct physical harm, these online identities can still engage in behaviour that demeans and is hurtful to others. Given a lack of perceived accountability online, people are far more likely to engage in activities like bullying, hate speech, piracy and cybercrime. But these actions can have dire consequences for people in the real world, ruining lives and even driving people to suicide.

Considering that the digital world is here to stay, it’s vital for teachers and parents to educate children on the effects of online behaviour and what it means to be dignified, responsible digital citizens.

In this article, we’ll highlight a few key attributes of responsible digital citizens, and outline what you can do to foster these characteristics in your students.

Digital citizens are engaged with technology, not shielded from it

According to Ofcom’s 2015 Communications Market Report, 90% of young people in the UK have a mobile device that can access the internet, 89% of which use their phone to take pictures. With adoption so widespread, it makes little sense for educators and parents to try and shield their children from the internet and mobile technology altogether. Rather, they should be encouraged to develop values to help them navigate the technological landscape safely and responsibly. With increasing integration of the digital sphere into various aspects of our real life, from the classroom to social circles, simply blocking everything is both futile and highly impractical. That said, it’s important to maintain a safe online environment for students through appropriate eSafety measures.

Digital citizens act online as they would in the real world

A core part of being a responsible digital citizen is understanding that actions online have consequence. The perceived disconnect between our digital personas and who we are out in public is not nearly as absolute as many netizens believe, as there are living, breathing humans on the other side of online abuse that can experience genuine trauma. Students should be taught to respect people online in the same way that they respect people in the flesh; to be mindful, considerate, kind and responsible.

In a similar vein, students should understand the extent of digital law. This is especially relevant in the context of online piracy, as a 2015 government report has shown that 18% of internet users over 12 have consumed illegal digital content. If they’re uncomfortable stealing intellectual property in the real world, they should think twice before doing so online.

Digital citizens appreciate their digital footprint

The internet is, in some ways, like a vast time capsule. Unless something is explicitly deleted or the domain expires, it’s likely to remain online indefinitely. This “digital footprint” has come back to haunt countless people over the years who, at one point or another, acted irresponsibly online. From job applications to university admissions, key decision makers are increasingly likely to look online for more information about a candidate. Students who understand and respect their digital footprint are more likely to be thoughtful and considerate in their online conduct and, as a result, be responsible digital citizens.

Creating responsible digital citizens is a balancing act between device management, content control and education. If you would like to learn more about how a comprehensive mobile device management solution can help you create digital citizens, get in touch.

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