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Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world
Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world

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3 Digital citizens

We live in a global society, where it is increasingly possible to connect across continents and cultures using technology. As well as being confident going online, it’s important to show awareness of the needs and feelings of others, and to be sensitive to cultural differences.

Citizenship in general refers to the way in which individuals contribute to society. The term ‘digital citizenship’ has now entered everyday language and is defined as:

A person who develops the skills and knowledge to effectively use the Internet and other digital technology, especially in order to participate responsibly in social and civic activities.

(, 2015)

Digital citizenship includes:

  • handling yourself appropriately and ethically in a digital environment
  • being aware of the impact of your actions on the digital communities you are part of
  • contributing to the community in a mature and responsible way.

It is part of the ‘understand and engage’ aspect of the Digital skills framework you were introduced to in Week 2.

As a good digital citizen, it is important to treat your digital footprint, and the digital footprints of others, with respect. Bear in mind that:

  • your potential audience may be far bigger than you think
  • once information about you or others is out there on the web it generally stays there.

Another essential aspect of digital citizenship is being able to communicate online. The notion of ‘netiquette’ refers to the guidelines for appropriate behaviour when communicating with others online in writing. The conventions are likely to vary, depending on the context in which your online communication is taking place. You may find it helpful to observe how others are interacting before you launch in. There are also some general principles to bear in mind:

  • Ensure that what you say is appropriate to the context, clear, relevant, to the point and courteous.
  • Present your opinions sensitively and acknowledge the other person’s point of view, even if this is different to your own.
  • Think about who you are communicating with and adopt the appropriate tone, for example, a friend, colleague or an official in an organisation.
  • Communicate your emotions – this can help other people understand your perspective. This is particularly important for written communication where others cannot see your face or body language to gauge your mood. Many online environments have smileys or emoticons and emoji you can use to show how you are feeling, which might be appropriate to use in informal communications.
  • Be aware of cultural differences, particularly when communicating with people from other countries. Check whether there is anything in your words, or the way you communicate, that could cause offence.
  • Remember not to write in capitals, as this comes across as shouting.

These principles essentially boil down to treating others as you would want them to treat you.

Activity 5 Communicating online

Timing: 10 minutes


Don’t fire off a hasty reply if someone sends you an email that upsets or annoys you


Smile and make eye contact.


Keep your communications brief and to the point.


Don’t write in capital letters.


Acknowledge what other people say in their messages or posts.


Keep in mind who you are communicating with.


Acknowledge others’ points of view when disagreeing with them.


Be aware of who may be reading what you write.


Use appropriate body language.

The correct answers are a, c, d, e, f, g and h.


Some of the suggestions in the quiz require participants in a conversation to be able to see each other, which of course isn’t possible with many forms of online communication. This is why it’s really important to be clear in what you say and to think about how the communication will be received. If you don’t know who will read it, imagine how someone relevant to the context would respond, for example, your boss, client or best friend. Edit it if you think that person would not understand your sentiment.

If you wish to learn more this area, you may like to look at the ‘Communication Skills’ section [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] in another badged course, Succeed with learning.

Digital citizenship is about using technology for positive benefit. Social networks and online communities can be powerful forces for good, for example, citizen science, crowdsourcing and online campaigns. These initiatives enable ordinary people to contribute to knowledge and public good, and to bring about change. If you are interested in learning more about these kind of online communities, you may like to explore some of the following resources:

  • Citizen science – Wikipedia entry for citizen science explaining how members of the general public actively contribute to scientific research, often using online networks. You can study this further with another badged course, Citizen science and global biodiversity.
  • – a site that brings together information, tools and resources for harnessing the power of online communities to get solutions and feedback to all sorts of problems.
  • Causes – a site where you can find out about, support and organise campaigns on issues that are important to you.

Record anything you want to follow up in your Digital plan.