Moral and Social Aspects of Digital Citizenship

In the article Defining and Measuring Youth Digital Citizenship, the authors Jones and Mitchell acknowledge the fact that ‘digital citizenship’ encompasses a wide range of goals. For this particular aim, they suggest narrowing down the focus by concentrating on two strategies: increasing respectful and tolerant behaviors towards others online as well as enhancing online civic engagement of youth. It is stated that some topics like Internet safety, privacy, cyberbullying, self-image, information literacy and so on, all concerning digital citizenship in general, have already been integrated into the curricula. At this point, the authors think that it is important to differentiate digital citizenship education from digital literacy education since digital literacy involves technical skills related to the Internet and computer. It is stated in the article that civic engagement has not yet been the major focus of digital citizenship definitions or educational directions despite being adjacent to youth citizenship conceptualization.

Scholars share the common opinion that youth citizenship has a key aspect, which is going beyond one’s individual interest and being committed to the well-being of a larger group to which the individual belongs. This wording reminded me of Kohlberg’s moral development theory in the field of developmental psychology. This theory categorizes moral development in three levels with two stages embedded in each level. Accordingly, going beyond one’s individual interest may fall into Level 3 (post-conventional level) in Kohlberg’s theory under Stage 5 where Social Contract is predominant. At this stage, utilitarian rules are followed by individuals to make the life better for all. Level 3 is the most sophisticated level and Stage 6 is the top layer of the theory that one may reach (some never reaching that stage). In this top stage, universal principles are adopted and followed, which means morality goes beyond mutual benefit and it attains a universal quality. This part is implied by Lincoln Dahlberg in his article Re-constructing digital democracy: An outline of four ‘positions’.He writes: “…empathizing with and supporting the needs and rights of other individuals…”, providing examples from Amnesty International and Avaaz Still. Dahlberg combines this line of thinking with Rawlsian hint, referring to theTheory of Justice. The concept of social contract is also discussed in this theory,therefore, moral theory would be complementary for the issues under discussion.

Empathy is a recurring topic along the articles.Jones and Mitchell, while discussing digital citizenship that includes civic engagement, think that these two areas of educationcould inform one another and create new synergies. As for empathy, efforts concerning digital citizenship education help youth practice taking the perspectives of others. This is in fact a practice for empathy, which is a useful and real-life practice for social skills. Other than empathy, some soft skills are emphasized in the article as advantages that youth could benefit from digital citizenship education. Youth are encouraged to use respectful behavior during online disagreements (which I may call rules of fighting fair) and supporting individuals who are targeted negatively. Linked with traditional civic participation, youth can also increase their acts towards volunteerism and solving a community problem.We can regard all theserelevant skills as “soft skills” or “smart skills” although they are not categorized as soft skillsin the article. Creativity, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration and critical thinking are some of the soft skills required in real life, which can also be learned and practiced by the youththrough opportunities provided by digital citizenship that include civic engagement.

written by A. Dereli as Response Paper III (for COMM 720 Week 4–2016–2017 Academic Year)


Jones, L. M., & Mitchell, K. J. (2016). Defining and measuring youth digital citizenship. New Media & Society.doi:10.1177/1461444815577797

Dahlberg, L. (2011). Re-constructing digital democracy: An outline of four “positions.”New Media & Society, 13(6), 855–872. doi:10.1177/1461444810389569

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