Did you know digital citizenship practices were being talked about long before the Internet was ever a thing? Okay, that’s obviously not true unless time travel is a possibility. Nevertheless, many things said by history’s greatest minds can easily apply to digital citizenship. That’s what we’re here to discuss today.

It’s said that understanding our past can prepare us for our future. If that’s true then we can take timeless wisdom and apply it to present and future disciplines. Digital citizenship practices fit perfectly with this idea.

The 6 Tenets of Digital Citizenship

  • Respect for Yourself
  • Responsibility for Yourself
  • Respect for Others
  • Responsibility for Others
  • Respect for Property
  • Responsibility for Property

Now let’s listen to some echoes from the past. We’ll examine these tenets below using historical wisdom. Have a look at the description of each one and consider the accompanying quote and how it applies. Hopefully a lively discussion about the universal nature of digital citizenship practices will follow. Use the questions provided to get it going with your students.

Respect for Yourself

“I will show respect for myself through my actions. I will select online names that are appropriate. I will consider the information and images I post online. I will not post personal information about my life, experiences, experimentation, or relationships. I will not be obscene.”

In many ways self-respect contributes to self-preservation. With our best foot forward, pride without arrogance becomes armour. It works the exact same way in the online world. The level of self-respect we show in our digital citizenship practices contributes to our overall “digital health.” A good way for us to protect ourselves online is to show the world we have respect for ourselves.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does respecting ourselves keep us safe in the online world?
  2. What do you think having ideal “digital health” means?
  3. What to you do right now to keep yourself and your personal information safe online?

Responsibility for Yourself

“I will ensure that the information I post online will not put me at risk. I will not publish my personal details, contact details or a schedule of my activities. I will report any attacks or inappropriate behaviour directed at me. I will protect passwords, accounts and resources.”

We are responsible for our own actions online and not those of others. Our best move in digital citizenship practices is simple: make our own best decisions. We can’t make them for others, nor should we. Our digital life path is still a life path. Each person’s path is special and individual. Buddha taught this as did many other great spiritual teachers. It applies just as much to the paths we take online.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to not reveal too much about ourselves online?
  2. What are your own password best practices, and would you be willing to suggest them to others?
  3. Have you (or has anyone you know) ever experienced identity theft? What does this say about the power of technology and how it can be abused?

Respect for Others

“I will show respect to others. I will not use electronic mediums to flame, bully, harass, or stalk other people. I will show respect for other people in my choice of web sites. I will not visit sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist, or inappropriate. I will not abuse my rights of access and I will not enter other people’s private spaces or areas.”

Mexican lawyer and president Benito Juárez embodies a dedication to democracy and to the rights for his nation’s people. So how do we respect others and their online rights to contribute to a healthier and happier community/nation/world? The exact same way we do in the real world—common sense and practice. It’s really a simple thing to do. We are all happier, wiser, and safer when we choose to treat others with the same dignity we want to be treated with.

  1. What are some simple ways to begin respecting others online?
  2. When someone shows you courtesy online, how does it make you feel? Why is it important to share this experience with others through our own actions?
  3. What are the negative effects of being bullied, harassed, or stalked online?
  4. Have any of these things happened to you or someone you know? What did you do about it?

Responsibility for Others

“I will protect others by reporting abuse, not forwarding inappropriate materials or communications, and not visiting sites that are degrading, pornographic, racist, or inappropriate.”

Here Shakespeare offers us something that will later be echoed by Stan Lee: power comes with responsibility. The access and anonymity we have online gives us a lot of power for sure. How we use it is up to us, so why not use it for good?

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you do when you witness others being abused or mistreated online? Why do you choose this course of action?
  2. Can reporting abuse truly make a difference? Why or why not?
  3. How can we make sure that we avoid questionable or inappropriate sites when we’re online?
  4. What can we do to help others who are being bullied or stalked online?

Respect for Property

“I will request permission to use resources. I will suitably cite any and all use of websites, books, media etc. I will acknowledge all primary and secondary sources. I will validate information. I will use and abide by the fair use rules.”

People work hard to put information online, including you. All intellectual property deserves respect and consideration. As Goethe suggests here, keeping our own corner of the digital world clean is once again a matter of personal responsibility. We can’t make others cite sources and abide by fair use rules. In the end we can only set a good example. This is the case with all digital citizenship practices. It all comes down to what we’re willing to do personally to make a difference.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is properly citing sources important when referencing the work of others?
  2. How does asking permission to share content build the relationships between people who submit work online?
  3. What does how we treat our own intellectual and physical property say about us?

Responsibility for Property

“I will request to use the software and media others produce. I will use free and open source alternatives rather than pirating software. I will purchase, license, and register all software. I will purchase my music and other media, and refrain from distributing these in a manner that violates their licenses. I will act with integrity.”

One of the most common justifications you’ll hear in support of digital piracy is that “everybody’s doing it.” That makes Howe’s quote perfect for this tenet. Obviously, there’s no way the assumption that everyone does it can be true. If it was the damage to our digital entertainment industry would be way more severe, and it’s bad enough as is. Also, just because torrenting and sharing are easy and anonymous (for the most part) doesn’t make them right. Illegal downloading is still theft, and theft of any kind is never a victimless crime.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is digital piracy still such a common practice even though people are becoming more aware of the consequences?
  2. How do online thieves generally rationalize their reasons for stealing, and why?
  3. What are the effects of digital piracy on artists whose work is being stolen?
  4. How would you feel if someone pirated something you put a lot of work into?

 

 

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