“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead
When we woke up one August morning in 1991, the World Wide Web had officially been introduced into our lives. It seemed like a novelty at first, but then it began to attract more and more curiosity and interest as we explored its potential. Today our level of global interconnectedness is staggering, and the Internet has been incorporated into many facets of human life. We have become very aware of the need to understand this continuous rapid change and forecast parameters of safety for our most vulnerable users.
We have adapted to its presence as a constant, and the idea of its absence seems nearly unimaginable to us. The Internet has allowed us to become true global citizens, both socially and as a workforce. We can now see and track our actions on an international scale; we can measure our impact on the global environment; we can gauge our social and moral differences and similarities; and we can rally together to inspire hope and provide aid for countries dealing with hardships and tragedies.
This interconnectedness allows us to see how local or individual efforts can have a global effect. Seeing the impact of the individual in the global community has shown us the great positive potential of the Internet. But we have also seen that same impact reveal how exposed we can be to scrutiny, manipulation, and threats to our privacy and security.
When we think about it, it makes sense to cultivate empowered individuals who are dutifully aware of their responsibility both for and with the power of the Internet for the lasting well-being of our global community. This is a hallmark of what we call the global digital citizen.
What Is a Global Digital Citizen?
A starting point for creating a new level of ethical consciousness among our global individuals is to define the characteristics of the global digital citizen. This type of person is conscientious, caring, and resourceful. At the Global Digital Citizen Foundation, we see such a person as one who is characterized by the practice of five unique principles or tenets.
The 5 Tenets of Global Digital Citizenship
- Personal Responsibility: This concerns how one governs oneself in such matters as finance, ethical and moral considerations, personal health and fitness, and interpersonal relationships in both the digital and the nondigital world. It’s about how we present ourselves both in virtual and physical environments.
- Global Citizenship: This generation and future ones are now global individuals. They must strive toward an appreciation of the many values, traditions, religions, concerns, and cultures of their fellow citizens. Global citizenship is about recognizing and respecting diversity.
- Digital Citizenship: Digital citizenship means showing respect and responsibility for yourself, for others, and for property of every definition. It involves setting up a proper program of digital ethics and best practices for all. Such a program focuses on safe and respectful behavior in any online environment.
- Altruistic Service: A citizenry that acts out of compassion and that recognizes an interconnectedness to others is vital. For the global digital citizen, this means a concern for the well-being of the people with whom we share our world, and a desire to serve others.
- Environmental Stewardship: We all have only one world to live in, and our duty as global citizens is to respect and preserve it for future generations. This is all about the demonstration of common-sense values and of an appreciation for the beauty and majesty that surrounds us every day.
Global Digital Citizenship Tenets in Action
Being a great global digital citizen isn’t just about using your head—it’s also about using your heart. Having a responsible and ethical citizenry is essential to healthy and peaceful life in the world we all share. A global digital citizen enjoys the benefits of being in our connected world, while practicing some significant responsibilities at the same time.
Global digital citizens must be aware that they share their lives online with what is now a global presence. As such, here are some action guidelines for the global digital citizen’s “code of honor.”
Global digital citizens must:
- Consider that they are identifiable and are creating a “digital footprint” with any online activity.
- Always communicate using the appropriate language.
- Serve their duty to judge what is appropriate and ethical behavior within the laws of the land.
- Choose and uphold their social responsibilities.
- Always be virtuous and act with integrity in all digital and nondigital communications and interactions.
These five considerations provide an excellent foundation for anyone to build on and are supplementary to the six tenets of digital citizenship. By instilling these values within both ourselves as well as demonstrating them and teaching them to our students and youth, we can build a safer online environment and create a better future for our planet.