Chris J Powell

What is Digital Citizenship and Who Is Responsible for Teaching it?

After this weekend I can honestly say for the first time I am embarrassed to tell anyone where I live.  The Student Riots here in London, Ontario on Saturday night are a blight and a permanent black mark on this city and on the province.  I watched the videos and placed my comments through out my Social Media channels but I still wonder where we as a society failed to impart the importance of Digital Citizenship and general good Behaviour on the youth of today?


In all the videos I watched there were hundreds of people just standing around with their smartphones pointed at the carnage and idiocy going on around them.  No attempt was made by the 1000 onlookers who by virtue of their presence acted as a catalyst for the mayhem but also protected the worst offenders from the Police.  Their guilt comes not from setting the fires or throwing rocks, bottles and slabs of wood at Police and Emergency Workers…their guilt comes from not leaving the area after being ordered to do so.

In this the era of the Digital Everything it is important to understand that our actions and that the power Technology that we blindly place into our pockets each morning in the form of a Smart Phone come with some responsibility.  Among the new Digital(isms) is the act of Digital Citizenship and the actions of these Students on Saturday make it more than obvious that it is no longer enough to expect that people will just “do the right thing” when it comes to using technology.

I found a great Article over at that both defines the concept of Digital Citizenship and also provides 9 Elements to break that Definition into the aspects that every “Netizen” and “Digital Citizen” should be not only aware of but live by in this modern world.  Borders and Cultures no longer separate us.  The use of Mobile Devices and Social Media has forever connected us to new parts of the world, they have allowed the “Arab Spring” to gain traction and produce mostly positive change in a region that has seen little positive beyond Oil Revenue for decades.

But ultimately who is responsible for teaching our children and the youth of today about Good Citizenship both Digital and Real Life?  There is an apathy that has spread throughout this community that actually fuelled the Riots on Saturday night and allowed such an act to have a place to build up and spill out into the streets.  We can blame the Alcohol Consumption, we can blame education system for dumping 17 year olds into the Post Secondary School System, we can even blame the parents of these youths for not preparing these kids to “Just Say No” but that is just not good enough.

These kids are the same ones who don’t bother to Vote in Elections, beyond their forced Community Service in High School do not generally participate in any extra curricular activities beyond group mayhem and “keg stands” and they will continue to be a blight on the economic landscape because of their collective expectations that everything will be handed to them instantly just because they are John or Jane Q Public. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have had the pleasure of meeting some amazing young people who really and truly do get the importance of Citizenship but these seem to be few and far between. 

What are we to do as a Community, as a City, as a Country?  What are we to do as a collective face of all things Digital and good with Technology?  Who should take the charge and not only teach but truly instruct our youth about Digital Citizenship?  Why did these kids think that it was OK to stand by and watch others tip a News Truck on its side and set it on fire…and on top of that use their Smart Phone to film it.  What makes it ok to not get involved when we know that it what we are seeing is wrong? How can anyone feel justified in saying that they are not guilty of the Unlawful Assembly when the crowd did not disperse until after 4AM when the order making the mob illegal was announced at 11PM?


I think that this YouTube Generation needs a swift kick in the arse and a couple of years of Civil Service under their belt before they can say that they are ready to enter society.  Yes…I went there…conscripted Civil Service before you are permitted to claim your Canadian Citizenship.  Now Civil Service may mean a couple of years spent in the Military, it could also mean working directly for the city or even in remote parts of the country to aid and support a region less fortunate or struggling because of natural or economic disaster.  This 2 year service would be required before being able to enter Post Secondary School as only Citizens would be permitted to attend.

Well that is an idea for another time.


Chris J Powell

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