The internet as we know it has undergone a continuous process of evolution, and our expectations and consumption bandwidth have transformed with it too. Today, the internet doesn’t rely on sluggish dial-up boot times or trailing speeds. And with 5G connections becoming the darling of the technology world, our interactions and behavior are the only aspects that lag. Our trailing online sensibilities now sound the internet dial-up tune, not the internet itself.

One would expect the previously mentioned claim to be less pronounced in the current crop of youngsters. Gen Z and Gen Alpha have experienced the widespread adoption of the internet head-on. The entirety of their lives has seen digitalization through and through. The result is that the analog world of yesteryear is as foreign to the current generation as Snapchat is to a boomer. And great technological prowess demands a level of responsibility that has yet to materialize.

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Why Be Responsible Online Anyway?

As more teenagers and children begin to come online, the more saturated the internet becomes. You can apply this saturation to user numbers, content, and threats. Yes, the internet is a dangerous place if you struggle to navigate it properly. Most netizens by now are well-versed in detecting spam and scams, but due to their relative infancy in usage, children and teens are commonly affected. A report by the Federal Trade Commission showed that 40% of people between the ages of 20 and 29 had lost money to online scams. Contrast this to the 18% of people aged 70 and up, and the indication is clear: digital citizenship requires teaching to newer generations.

Current cyberbullying statistics paint a similar portrait. 21% of all students in the US have reported cyberbullying against them. And 56% of these students said the cyberbullying occurred from January to July 2020. It is no coincidence that this timeline matches perfectly with the coronavirus pandemic, as the closure of schools saw millions of children studying online. One app, in particular, has been in the limelight all too often whenever cyberbullying is in the discussion. That application is Snapchat. 69% of cyberbullied victims were frequent users of the app and tout Snapchat as the primary place of cyberbullying. 

Sexual predators and child sex offenders have also changed their strategies for their crimes. Instead of seeking out victims in person, sex offenders groom and manipulate children online. An estimated 500,000 online predators are online every day, and they usually browse and scour victims on websites and apps children would mostly use. It is where Snapchat comes into the focus once more. Of late, the social media giant has become a haven for child abuse. The common notion is that most adults who groom children are strangers, but that is not always true. Most of the time, the victim may have met the groomer through family or other connections. The groomer then proceeds to build a relationship with the child online. Most of the time, victims of child grooming are ‘catfished’ into thinking they’re chatting with their online boyfriend or girlfriend.

Concerns such as the ones mentioned have become topics of deep and polarised debates around the world. These have, in turn, led to a greater emphasis on digital citizenship and online safety – especially for children and young teens.

How to Ensure Internet Safety

Perhaps the biggest mistake people make online is one of optimism bias. Optimism bias affects us from an early age and continues to shape our decision-making well into old age. It is a cognitive bias that allows us to believe that we are immune to negative experiences. But this is a colossal and potentially dangerous oversight, especially when online protection is concerned. 

Here are a few ways you can implement digital safety measures in your life:

  • Use reliable antivirus programs

The primary security requirement is safeguarding your devices and data from online theft. Malware, trojans, and ransomware are littered all over the internet, and reliable (and updated) antivirus software can help you against them. It applies to individuals at home and especially for professionals in small-scale organizations.

  • Safety via third-party software

While antivirus software is broad-spectrum and covers several issues, third-party software can further extend the safety net. Firewalls, adblockers, and monitoring software are all great options to shore up defenses. Adblocker Plus is a popular web extension that blocks harmful and intrusive ads, and Xnspy is a monitoring software tool that can be used to ensure online safety and protect against different threats like cyber attacks and cyberbullying.

  • Practice data encryption

If you habitually carry your data around with you on hard drives or external storage devices, encrypting or password-protecting them should be the top priority. It applies to individuals who handle external storage devices to school or work and, careless handling or forgetfulness could expose private or confidential data to unknown sources. Hard drives today come with some medium of protection and encryption, and your best bet would be to use a combination of both.

  • Delete all suspicious emails

Despite their immense utility in professional and learning environments, emails are still the preferred place of attack for most hackers. To ensure digital safety, always inspect email addresses before interacting with the email. It is especially true for emails that require a CTA or Call to Action. The CTA could be in the form of a link or information portal. IT departments in schools and other businesses can utilize monitoring software similar to Xnspy to ensure the deletion of all suspicious emails.

  • Do not use the same password everywhere

Nearly everyone is guilty of this from time to time. Due to the overwhelming use of cloud-based technologies, it is common to own accounts on multiple platforms online. These accounts require your email address and password to log in, and most of us tend to use one password across the board. It is recommended you use different passwords for different online platforms. If you are having trouble spreading your passwords out like this, you can always use a password manager that keeps them safe.

The Digital Citizenship Visa Portal

Unlike national citizenship, the digital counterpart is not riddled with long waiting times or paperwork. The only thing expected from a responsible digital citizen is awareness and a sense of responsibility when using technology.

Regardless of whether you are a parent, employer, or teacher, the desire to raise a generation of digital citizens who are both astute and caring is common. It is because of the understanding of the internet and how it shapes our world in multiple ways. This understanding also extends to the future of technology and its implementation. Listed below are some of the facets found in a responsible digital citizen:

  1. Treat everyone online with respect. Whether your interaction is on a social media platform, email, or forum, showing courtesy and kindness can go a long way. Fortunately, most websites have a reporting feature, and hence, if you see any instance of verbal abuse, threats of physical harm, or cyberbullying, you can report the person immediately.
  2. Always respect copyright laws. It is just as applicable for students working on assignments as it is for employers looking for information for their business. Plagiarism is stealing: so be sure to give credit to whomever the information belongs to and cite them as a source. 
  3. Never give out personal information on social media websites. It can be hard to verify danger or signs of it online, but always considering its presence is good practice. If any email or person online asks for your personal information (addresses, phone number, maiden names, social security numbers), do not provide them.
  4. Careless social media posting can have consequences. You can be fired from a job or expelled from school if your tweet or post is racist, homophobic, violent, or abusive. And never post your whereabouts on social media. Such information can be used to track someone’s GPS location and help the criminals plan their next move. Whatever you post online is forever, so think before you hit publish.

READ ALSO: 6 Reasons Why You Should Keep Your Personal Life Private (and How to Do It)

Ensuring Digital Safety

  • As an employer

There are many tools available today that can help you fine-tune the day-to-day operations of your business. One such area for refinement should be digital safety and responsibility for your employees. Many employee monitoring apps are available online that can ensure easier management of your staff. One such option is the previously-listed Xnspy. With its powerful email, social media, and instant messenger support, you can keep tabs on what your employees post online through company phones. When queried about their whereabouts, employees often lie.

As a result, many organizations watch their employees’ current locations in order to prevent them from striking deals with competitors or indulging in other unethical behavior while at work. And when it comes to tracking someone’s GPS location, Xnspy is a popular choice among businesses. Since it operates in real-time, businesses can track their employees’ current whereabouts. In addition to making the workplace safer for everyone, such monitoring enables more efficient use of time, allowing an employee to be more productive at work. You can learn more about Xnspy location tracking feature here.

  • As a parent

Kid-friendly search engines should be the go-to portal for information for your children. Kidtopia by Google is a popular option, and so are Kids Search, Duck Duck Go, and Kiddle. If you insist on using Google, make sure that Safe Search is on by default.

It’s critical to keep a watch on your child’s activities, as well as the friends they make and the places they visit. But, more importantly, keep an eye on their online activities, as the internet and social media are where children spend the majority of their time. Xnspy is one such tool that can assist you in protecting your children from the hazards that lurk in the digital world and ensuring their safety online. It is installed on either Android or iOS phones and tablets. This app can provide detailed analysis and statistics on online and offline usage. It also allows you to block certain apps, locate your children using the phone’s GPS, and record screen usage.

This is a collaborative post.


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5 thoughts on “The Definitive Guide to Becoming a Responsible Digital Citizen

  1. Our school has a mandatory class for all year 4–7 students on digital citizenship. It’s absolutely vital for children to know how to be safe online.

    1. Exactly! I think all schools should have such a class, especially during this time when almost everyone can create and access digital content. Thank you so much for reading, Laura❤️

  2. Encryption is so important and often the most overlooked aspect of personal data privacy. As a network engineer, I know from experience how easy it is to get access to someone’s files if you have a physical storage device on you. Phones can be encrypted too and it only takes a few minutes to do so.

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