What Is A Digital Citizen? - SACAP
Applied Psychology

What is a Digital Citizen?

Jun 20, 2023 | By Saranne Durham
Family online using technology and being digital citizens

A digital citizen is someone who is a responsible, as well as proficient, user of technology. They are able to engage with technology in a way which enables them to communicate effectively and efficiently. Additionally, they create and consume technology while engaging with the broader digital community and society at large.

“Digital citizenship can be defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible behaviour with regard to technology use.”

Dr Mike Ribble

The Council of Europe unpack the definition of digital citizenship in more detail:

  • The competent and positive engagement with digital technologies (creating, working, sharing, socialising, investigating, playing, communicating and learning);
  • participating actively and responsibly (values, skills, attitudes, knowledge) in communities (local, national, global) at all levels (political, economic, social, cultural and intercultural);
  • being involved in a double process of lifelong learning (in formal, informal and non-formal settings) and continuously defending human dignity.

Who is a Digital Citizen?

A digital citizen is someone who is confident in their use of technology. Dr Ribble, defines digital citizenship through three principles. These three principles, once in action, will allow someone to engage positively within the digital world. As well as competently with the ability to critically evaluate things while they participate online.

Three Principles of Digital Citizenship:

  1. Respect
  2. Educate
  3. Protect

When online, treat others as you want to be treated in return.

Digital Wellness

The need for digital wellness further emphasises these three principles. Digital wellness is the impact of digital devices on our mental, physical, emotional and social health. Basically, this means that digital health and wellness are focused on establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship with technology.

What is Digital Citizenship in Education?

Being a responsible digital citizen is a learnt skill and competency. As it’s not something that is automatically acquired, it needs to be taught. A lack of teaching within this field, can result in danger and harm for both children and adults. Especially within the social media platforms. Schools are increasingly recognising it as a vital skill and are including it within curriculums. Thus, becoming a digital citizen means educating yourself so that you are able to positively interact and work in the digital world.

Within an education system, learning what it is to be a capable digital citizen can have an even broader scope. Such as the manner in which to participate within the digital environment that is not harmful.

8 Digital Education Concepts

  1. Digital and information literacy.
  2. Internet safety.
  3. Online etiquette.
  4. Communication.
  5. Privacy and Security.
  6. Cyberbullying.
  7. Plagiarism: Copyrights and credit.
  8. Digital footprints.

Teaching someone how to use technology responsibly means that they are able to adequately participate online, both socially and commercially. It also means that the manner in which they engage safeguards them, while being respectful of others’ rights and dignity.

Digital Citizenship in action means that someone can positively work, live and share within a digital environment.

What is the Digital Divide?

The Digital Divide refers to the difference between digital and non-digital citizens. It is most obvious when online participation is compared between developed and developing countries. It is also reflected in the ability counties have to link services, such as government information, with digital sites.

Democracy and the Digital Divide

In many countries access to an increasing number of things can only be done via online portals. For example, filing taxes, engaging with politicians, reporting service issues and publication of public information such as parliamentary rulings. Adding to this, is that more and more election campaigns are run online. Some countries have an online voting system for participation in elections. And others use online platforms to run citizen polls to determine a course of action the government should take. Thus, it can be a divide that impacts those in developing countries as well as people in the developed world.

These and other factors result in the exclusion of those who aren’t digitally competent or, alternatively, don’t have internet access. Thus, the digital divide has become an influence determining democratic participation and the sustainability of existing democracies.

Education Equity

e-Learning has provided access to education streams many would otherwise not have been able to enjoy. However, digital literacy and access to the internet is resulting in a growing educational gap. Consequently, there is an increase in educational inequality.

The less access a student has to the internet, be it connectivity or limited device use, the more challenges they face. This is because current information is progressively being supplied online and not in hardcopy. For example, for many years encyclopaedia books were the primary place many students got information for projects. Now many of these previously printed books are only available in an electronic format. Additionally, access to additional information is no longer via specialised paper books but rather through expert online sites.

Commercialising Digital Citizenship

Remote Employment

Many people now work remotely. In fact, with the advances in technology, companies can interview people from all across the world for a vacant position. This has created opportunities for both individuals and companies which previously didn’t exist. As such companies are not limited to employing within their immediate geographical area. Instead, they can employ an expert from anywhere in the world. For those working remotely, especially in countries with weaker currencies, they are able to earn a better income without immigrating.


e-Residency is a form of residency that is offered to those who work online. Usually, a country which offers digital residencies has a well-developed digital programme. Through it they foster a competitive and supportive online business environment. Digital nomads, those who can work remotely, are often further incentivised to register their online companies locally. Amongst other things, they may be offered financial support or access to digital resources and exclusive networking hubs. Their disposable income is spent within the country that they have e-residency. Which helps to stimulate its economy by providing additional cash injections into it. Thus, e-residency can be mutually beneficial to both the e-resident and the country they choose to live in.

Actively Being a Digital Citizen

Part of being a digital citizen is assisting others navigate the digital world. This could mean teaching people how to uphold the three principles. Or it could involve helping people to heal from negative online experiences. If you are interested in the psychology of being part of the online world, then consider studying psychology. SACAP has a range of courses and Applied Psychology degrees. These are designed to teach you to understand the human psyche and meaningfully assist others in their life-journey. Apply online or contact an admissions officer for more information.

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