screenshot from p17 Council of Europe’s Assessing Competences for Democratic Culture

The Council for Europe’s definition of Digital Citizenship is:

Competent and positive engagement with digital technologies…; participating actively and responsibly… in communities… at all levels…; being involved in a double process of lifelong learning… and continuously defending human dignity.


The European Digital Citizenship project states  that young people should be supported to ‘participate safely, effectively, critically and responsibly in a world filled with social media and digital technologies’. Both definitions can be set in the context of the Competences for Democratic Culture which promotes specific values, attitudes, skills, knowledge and understanding for citizenship competences whether for engagement in digital or physical communities.


Digital Citizenship Education

The Digital Citizenship Education Handbook advocates that the process of developing children and young people as digital citizens should start as early as possible, and that it is the responsibility of all educators, whether formal, non-formal or informal, to be facilitating the development of the skills and competencies of being a digital citizen. This handbook focuses on 3 key themes that can also be used by educators to guide their work with young people on citizenship issues. These can be seen in the image below:

screenshot from cover of Council of Europe Digital Citizen Education Handbook document
screenshot from cover of Council of Europe Digital Citizen Education Handbook document


Being Online

This theme highlights:

  • access and inclusion;
  • learning and creativity;
  • media and information literacy.

Young people can be facilitated to explore and understand issues of digital exclusion and how this impacts all citizens. Developing the skills and competencies of creative, agile and critical thinking ensures that young people are empowered to make informed choices about their participation and impact as digital citizens.


Wellbeing Online

This theme highlights:

  • ethics and empathy;
  • health and wellbeing;
  • e-Presence and communications.

A good digital citizen takes part in digital life ethically and respectfully and this involves communication skills, understanding the impact of digital footprints/tattoos and how their online presence and behaviours might influence their own life and the lives of others, both positively and negatively.


Rights Online

This theme highlights:

  • active participation;
  • rights and responsibilities;
  • privacy and security;
  • consumer awareness.

Young people can be facilitated to consider their rights, obligations and roles as digital citizens. This includes areas such as freedom of expression/speech, rights, privacy, democratic participation and involvement, and legislation.


Dr Jane Melvin
Dr Jane Melvin

Jane is currently a Principal Lecturer at the University of Brighton in the UK, and Partnership Lead for the School of Educations’s work with the Mauritius Institute of Education, as well as Assistant Programme Leader for the Undergraduate Work-based Learning Programme. Jane came into youth work through outdoor and experiential education. Her research interests now centre on the use of digital technologies as a vehicle for engaging young people in informal and experiential learning contexts, and the research for her Professional Doctorate in Education (Ed D) examined the nature of digital tools, spaces and places as mediators of youth work practice. She is also an author, contributing chapters to recent youth work and children’s workforce texts, and is a passionate campaigner for the promotion of youth work as a distinct education-based practice and professional discipline.