We live in unprecedented times of great digital advances and innovation. Technology is moving and changing rapidly across the world while connecting us in unforeseen ways. Today’s youth are digital natives who are unaware of life without Internet access, instant communication, mobile phones and an abundance of on-demand information sitting in their pockets.
Although this generation can navigate the digital world with ease, it is unreasonable to assume young people fully understand how to leverage technology for best possible outcomes. Research shows that most youth use the Internet to view media outlets and to communicate with friends through social media applications. Online, teens are not more digitally literate or skilled than adults. Most teens have not been exposed to the tools they need to boost their careers, such as writing, web design or content production. In addition, online security, legitimate dangers and potential digital footprint consequences are discussions yet to be had. As a society, it is our responsibility to ensure youth are fully aware as well as educated about digital citizenship. Education institutions, parents, community programs and youth organizations must make digital citizenship a priority to ensure our young leaders are on solid ground for a positive future. The call for teaching digital citizenship must no longer remain in question; it is a critical priority for youth, our communities and the nation.
Digital Citizenship is defined as the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use; it can be broken down into eight strategic areas: etiquette, communication, literacy, commerce, law, access, security and rights and responsibilities. Digital Citizenship is more than just a curriculum to be taught in a classroom; it is an ongoing process to prepare youth for a society immersed in technology, personally and professionally.
Assisted by the convenience and constant access to information provided by mobile devices, especially smartphones, 92% of teens report going online daily — including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly.” More than half (56%) of teens (ages 13-17) go online several times a day, and 12% report once-a-day use. Just 6% of teens report going online weekly, and 2% go online less often.