1.12 Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship incorporates a range of aspects from online safety and etiquette to digital literacy and the assessment of information found online. It is an issue that affects not only young people but everybody who goes online - as is evidenced by some of the resources found below.

Textbook exercise

Exercise 1.8

ITGS Guide: "On what basis can we trust "knowledge" acquired from a range of sources?"
ITGS Links: 1.1 Reliability and Integrity, 1.12 Digital Citizenship, 3.5 Internet

The BBC article Are we trapped in our own web bubbles? and Eli Pariser's TED talk 'Beware online filter bubbles' are two resources that discuss how personalised search results could limit our access to new information.

Search engines play a major role in providing access to knowledge and information. The order of the links appearing in search results therefore has a significant impact on the types of information that will be accessed by the majority of people (witness how many people only ever use the first page - or even half page - of search results). Additionally, some search engines and social media sites have started to use personalised search results, which can prioritise results that are similar to pages we have previously viewed - thus forming a so-called 'search bubble' or 'filter bubble' that might limit our exposure to new views.

Despite this, there is still some debate over just how significant the filter bubble effect is. A 2015 study of Facebook data suggested the effect was minimal or non-existent - but the study itself was quickly criticised. Filter bubbles returned to the media spotlight after political events including the election of Donald Trump and the UK Brexit vote. The Guardian attempted to examine the effect in 2018, while the University of Illinois has an interesting page examining the effect and presenting an experiment you can try for yourself.

This can be a useful starting point for exercise 1.8, and also links closely to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.

Updated: 2018-08-17
Digital citizenship - online safety

Digital Citizenship: Online safety

Know your internet-speak? is a quiz for parents testing their online knowledge.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre's ThinkUKnow is a great resource for all age groups and includes sections for parents and teachers. NetSmartz is another well respected site covering topics such as social networks, cyberbullying, online predators, and 'sexting' through articles, animations, and video. Internet safety lessons urged for five-year-olds (BBC) and How dangerous are networking sites? highlight the importance of online safety.
Updated: 2014-10-03

Digital Citizenship: Cyber-bullying

Cyber bullying cases

Cyber bullying can have severe impacts for its victims and serious consequences for its perpetrators. Below are several cases. These cases often relate and cross over with Etiquette and behaviour online.

Cyber bullying solutions

From a parent perspective, it is possible to purchase a mobile phone SIM card which can be controlled from a parent's computer - blocking use of the phone or certain features at specified hours, and preventing contact to and from specified individuals.

Governments are another stakeholder in the issue and some have tried to take action - New Zealand has passed new cyber-bullying laws, for instance.

Social media companies have a role to play in preventing cyber bullying - Policing social media contains resources describing how inappropriate online content is dealt with.

Cyber bullying resources

Updated: 2017-10-23
Digital citizenship - online behaviour

Digital Citizenship: Etiquette and behaviour online

Examples abound of employees being sacked for inappropriate behaviour online. One of the earliest examples was the Queen of the Sky (The Register), sacked by Delta Airlines for posts on her personal blog. Virgin Atlantic have also sacked crew (BBC) for social media use. Other relevant examples where people have lost their jobs include:

Business and Employment


Legal impacts

 What you can and can't say on Twitter and 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK attempt to clarify the issue of freedom of speech online.

Finally, How easy is it to delete yourself from the web (Guardian) is an essential read, making it clear that the impacts of revealing too much data (or inappropriate data) can last a very long time - something that all IB students should consider.

This topic is closely linked to online filtering, censorship, and surveillance issues.
Updated: 2018-05-21
Digital citizenship - digital literacy

Digital Citizenship: Information literacy

November Learning is a fantastic resource for teaching information literacy and source assessment, with lesson starters and activities. The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus and the Alt History Wiki are two more excellent resources that contain credible-looking but totally false information.

While Wikipedia is often criticised for containing inaccurate information (see its own page on academic use), The Top 10 Reasons Students Cannot Cite or Rely On Wikipedia delves into much more detail, including analysing how the site's editor system works. One interesting case is BP, who were accused of re-writing the environmental section of the company's Wikipedia entry to paint them in a more favourable light.

Plagiarism: The Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V boom (BBC) discusses the challenge of detecting plagiarism. The impacts of plagiarism can be severe: students can easily be kicked out of school or university for the offence. Not only students are affected - many famous stakeholders including a German minister and the International Baccalaureate themselves have been accused of copying without attribution. Perhaps they should have read Acadia University's Plagiarism tutorial first, or watched Plagiarism explained by CommonCraft (video).

TurnItIn is a well-known plagiarism-checking service: this page from Indiana University explains how it works.

Information literacy is closely related to the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course.
Updated: 2014-10-03
Bias in Wikipedia

TOK, Wikipedia, and ITGS

Wikipedia is often criticised for being "unreliable", but few criticisms go beyond "anybody can edit it". The resources below examine the demographics of Wikipedia's contributors and editors, and provide some insightful statistics that can be a great source of discussion in both TOK and ITGS lessons.

Wikipedia's editors are basically all dudes examines gender bias in Wikipedia while Wikipedia's own page on systematic bias is full of useful information.

This can lead to some great TOK knowledge questions, including:

  • How can we identify systematic bias?
  • Can we ever truly overcome systematic bias in sources?
  • If 'average' is used in the mathematical sense, how representative would an 'average' contributor be? Is an 'average' of knowledge desirable?
  • Is there some information which cannot be simply classified as 'correct' or 'incorrect'?
  • Is there a place for such information in an encyclopedia that aims to be "to be the sum of human knowledge" (which leads us back to a classic open-ended TOK question: "What is knowledge?")

Updated: 2014-11-17
Facebook logo

Policies: Policing social media

Policing a global web service such as Facebook or Twitter is clearly a difficult task, and there are many social impacts and ethical issues to consider. Most obviously, different countries, regions, and users have wildly different standards regarding what is acceptable and unacceptable. Content also spreads extremely quickly online, while new situations constantly arise, requiring companies to make quick policy decisions. Below are examples of situations where material has been removed (and sometimes reinstated) by social media sites. These issues are also a great opportunity to link ITGS and TOK, with many knowledge issues surrounding censorship and filtering.

In May 2017 a Facebook document was leaked which revealed their internal rulebook on sex, terrorism and violence. Finally, ITGS students might be surprised to learn who makes the decisions about removing content - The dark side of Facebook explains this.

Updated: 2017-07-12