Youth and Digital Citizenship+ (Plus): Understanding Skills for a Digital World

Digital citizenship has become a topic of growing importance among academics and policymakers alike, at the center of debate and theorization around the skills youth need to navigate and actively participate in our digital world. On a global level, a variety of stakeholders — including government, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and academia — have adopted the term to develop and shape formal and informal learning programs that aim to help youth address the challenges and embrace the opportunities the digital environment may present.

Yet, there is little consensus as to the broad areas (e.g., safety and well-being, civic and political engagement, identity exploration), and skills within them, digital citizenship should encompass. In this spotlight, Youth and Media explores the concept of digital citizenship, providing an overview of the current dialogue surrounding the term, with a focus on several key questions.

  • Why does digital citizenship matter?
  • Why has the concept become central in discussions about youth (ages 12-18), education, and learning in the 21st century?
  • In a world where the online and offline are increasingly blending, to what extent should we emphasize the role of the “digital” in “digital citizenship”?
  • To what degree do youth feel connected to the term “citizen?”
  • How is the concept of digital citizenship similar to or different from other concepts, such as digital literacy or 21st century skills?
  • How should we approach these concepts to more effectively foster the skills youth need to thrive in today’s society?
  • And to what extent have we as decision-makers, academics, and educators been successful at incorporating youth voices in the development, implementation, and evaluation of digital citizenship initiatives?

Authors

Youth and Media, Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard University

Youth and Media (YaM) encompasses an array of research, advocacy, and development initiatives around youth (age 12-18) and digital technology. Interacting closely with other teams at the Berkman Klein Center, YaM draws on the knowledge and experiences of individuals with various backgrounds, including psychology, ethnography, sociology, education, media theory, and the law. Building upon this interdisciplinary approach, YaM invites and amplifies the voices of youth throughout the research process, aiming to develop contributions that reflect and address young people’s needs, perspectives, experiences, and interests. The team’s work builds upon an evidence-base that offers unique insights into the creative, educational, and revolutionary possibilities of youth activity in the digital space while addressing the genuine concerns that come with living life online.