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How to Be a Good Digital Citizen

Those who work in the government sector need to be constantly aware as to how they or their municipality can be perceived—and need to always remember that in the digital world, people are always watching.

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Those who work in the government sector need to be constantly aware as to how they or their municipality can be perceived—and need to always remember that in the digital world, people are always watching.

A good citizen is someone who shows an interest in his or her community, who has compassion and empathy and is always striving to make the community a better place. This is something that has been fairly common knowledge—good citizenship is the cornerstone of a society that works well together.

But now that we work in the digital age, what about digital citizenship? Is this something of which people need to be mindful, and is there such a thing as being a “good digital citizen?”

The answer is a resounding yes, especially in the realm of local government. And given how dependent so many of us are these days on the digital, virtual and/or online world, being a good digital citizen shouldn’t be viewed as a luxury, but as a necessity.

Digital citizenship refers to the responsible use of technology by anyone who uses computers, the Internet and digital devices to engage with society on any level. It goes without saying that this applies to pretty much everyone involved in government, and we all need to be familiar with and adhere to the “guidelines” of being a good digital citizen.

First, let’s start with the opposite—what constitutes being a “bad” digital citizen, or practicing poor or irresponsible digital citizenship. It starts with irresponsible use of media channels and platforms, something that is unfortunately rampant today as a way for certain sects to push certain agendas. This erodes the credibility of anything you read—how are people supposed to know what information is true and what isn’t?

So good digital citizenship is about doing the opposite—sharing accurate information from trustworthy outlets and, basically, treating people with a basic level of respect that everyone deserves. It seems fairly obvious, but in 2020, it is often not there.

So the traits of a good digital citizen really aren’t that different from those of good citizens. According to a report found on teq.com, there are five hallmarks of a local government leader who is a good digital citizen.

Remember the Golden Rule

It goes without saying that municipal leaders should treat people the way they want to be treated, or have a member of their family treated.

Keep Private Information Private

It is essential that leaders are careful in terms of who receives information from them.

Think About the Future

As has been said, the Internet is written in ink, not pencil, and it is very hard to erase something. Simply deleting something from a social media channel doesn’t necessary mean it no longer exists on the Internet—it does, and can still potentially cause harm.

Be Mindful of Your “Brand”

When we think about brands, we tend to think about clothing and products. But your personal brand really is the promise you make to others about who you are and what kind of person you are. So always be mindful how others perceive you, and lead by example.

Be Yourself

After all, at the end of the day that is all we can be.

One additional challenge that needs to be addressed in terms of creating good digital citizenship is the technology skills gap, generally based on age and experience. In this regard, training for employees is a large challenge for most organizations regardless of the population, and it has impacted productivity in many municipalities. The way to overcome this is through constant education and training; this is the best way to ensure people are acting the right way and putting their municipalities in the best possible light.

Digital citizenship, like everyday citizenship, will come naturally to many—it’s really all about knowing the proper way to act and, then, following through. Still, those who work in the government sector need to be constantly aware as to how they or their municipality can be perceived—and need to always remember that in the digital world, people are always watching.

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