By Reem Al-Marei

Did you know that author Dina Alexander had to change the title of her book from 'A Story about Digital Citizenship' to 'A Story about Using Technology for Good,' since no one knew what digital citizenship meant? There is no question that the majority of today's kids grow up with a digital device within their reach, which makes us all digital citizens. The world we live in faces a lack of empathetic digital citizens; more people should be aware of what a digital citizen is and spread its meaning.

Everyone is a citizen of two worlds - the physical world and the digital world. It is expected of people to abide by the laws of the physical world, however the lack of awareness about how to be a good digital citizen has become an issue. (USA, 2018) conducted a research that showed that 95 percent of American youth aged 12-17 use the internet, meaning that they're on a device most of the day. Being on a device all day affects your physical well-being, which makes learning about digital health and wellness very important. We must protect physical and psychological well-being, which includes practicing how to sit correctly in a chair while using the computer and avoiding too much screen time.

Manufacturers such as Apple have been trying to help with these issues by adding a function to control the amount of time spent on each app, yet, after these efforts, not everyone understands digital citizenship. According to, the meaning of digital citizenship is "the norms of appropriate, responsible, and healthy behavior related to technology use, including digital; literacy, ethics, etiquette, and security" (Aubrey, 2017).

The digital world has no rule book. To be a good digital citizen, there are numerous elements, which include connecting with others, treating other internet users with respect, and avoiding inappropriate behavior. Like freedom of speech in the real-world, digital rights are the privileges people have over the internet (Aubrey, 2017). Using these privileges appropriately will ensure being a good digital citizen.

Simple actions can show if you're a good digital citizen. For example, an online post can give people a positive or negative opinion about someone or something, so think carefully about what you post before you post it. Here are some things to consider: Do you want a worldwide audience to see what you're about to post? Would you say the same thing in person? Would you say it if your family was watching?

On average, 95 million photos are uploaded on Instagram each day (Dustin W. Stout, 2020). Make sure what you post is not based on an emotional reaction and be careful that what you post is not breaking the law or violating any policies. Lastly, reflect on whether your behavior represents your ego (Celestial Holmes, 2017). If everyone followed these simple guidelines, it could have a huge impact.

Many people have heard the word empathy, but do they know what it means? Empathy is the ability of one to share and understand the emotions of others (Pascal Molenbeurgs, 2017). What generally comes to mind are the negative emotions, but empathy also includes positive emotions. Understanding the emotions of others builds better communities and a more established bond. Commercial litigator, Matthew Showel, described empathy as "a trail winding through the woods, empathy connects people through shared experiences and emotions."

It is a skill that can be educated and well-read with time (Jamil Zaki, 2019). Having empathy helps people understand how others are feeling so that they can respond appropriately to their situation. Years of studies have proven that a doctor's empathy towards a patient's test results are just as important as the prescribed medicines given (Jean Decety, and Aikaterini Fotopoulou, 2015). This empathy gives the patient the peace of mind they need to focus on getting better.

Design thinking, a powerful thinking method pioneered by the design school at Stanford University, starts with empathy. The focus on empathy for innovation allows people to design products, services, and solutions that match the needs of humans, allowing them to solve some of the most complex global challenges. This shows how empathy is needed everywhere - from a patient's healing process to launching a successful business.

Social media platforms affect the way humans interact with each other because not being face to face with someone allows for the abandonment of empathy. In the study, "Effects of Anonymity, Invisibility, and Lack of Eye-Contact on Toxic Online Disinhibition," researchers found that lacking eye contact with others online is one of the main reasons for trolling and flaming (The empathy project, 2017). (USA, 2018) found out that among US teens that use social media, 88 percent witness mean or cruel behavior. An empathetic digital citizen is a person who demonstrates empathy consciously online. According to Statistics Canada (Canada 2018), one in 10 adults living in a household with children reported a case of cyber-bullying against one of their children, showing the lack of empathetic digital citizens.

Digital citizenship, empathy, and empathetic digital citizenship should be discussed more often. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, everyone has been online more often due to worldwide quarantines. Communicating online has become the norm, so let's use screen time to help spread the word and demonstrate empathetic digital citizenship.