A definition of digital literacy & citizenship

A working definition that also embraces youth safety and empowerment on the fixed and mobile participatory Web

By Anne Collier

See what you think about this as a working definition for a digital literacy that includes citizenship, the behavioral element that I think has to be part of using social media safely and constructively:

Critical thinking and ethical choices
about
the content and impact
on
oneself, others, and one’s community
of
what one sees, says, and produces

I’ve been thinking about this all year, seeing 1) a big overlap between new media literacy and digital citizenship (because media has a behavioral component now, and digital citizenship by definition includes media) and 2) a blend of the two as the lion’s share of online safety for young people who are not so-called “at risk youth” – since the research shows that aggressive behavior online more than doubles a child’s risk of being victimized. So mindful use of digital media and devices and good citizenship online are protective as well as empowering. [For background, mile markers in the thinking process were "Social media literacy" last February, "A new online safety" and "Why technopanics are bad" last April, and our ConnectSafely call to action, "Online Safety 3.0" this month.] Your feedback here in the ConnectSafely forum, or via email (anne[at]netfamilynews.org) would be appreciated.

Within hours of blogging the above, I heard from Connecticut-based youth officer Det. Frank Dannahey, valuable member of ConnectSafely.org’s advisory board, with some valuable feedback, along the lines of: what about some reference to media?! Minor oversight ;-) . So I added two more lines to the definition:

Critical thinking and ethical choices
about
the content and impact
on
oneself, others, and one’s community
of
what one sees, says, and produces
with
media, devices, and technologies.

You could also end with “in online environments,” as Detective Dannahey suggested. The only reason why I changed that is because I hesitate to draw a solid line between online and offline, perpetuating that simplistic binary way we adults think. Young people make little distinction between online and offline – they just socialize, produce, participate, etc. – and citizenship and media literacy are protective and empowering in any environment. Anyway, thank you, Frank! So let’s go with this one (or send edits!). Collaboration is good.


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