Increasing Civility Online

October 14, 2016

Dealing with civility online and curbing harassment is very similar to dealing with crime on our streets. The solution is not to tell people to get off the streets, but to take a multi-prong approach to making the streets safer and educating citizens in street smarts. Likewise, our “digital streets” have many factors that increase or decrease their level of safety and vibrancy. Together we can improve civility online while educating, empowering and engaging digital citizens.

Using the 3 E’s of digital citizenship (Educate, Empower, Engage), we can look at ways to increase civility online


There are some incredible organizations that have popped up in recent years to try and build a better web. CiviliNation is one of them; they offer free resources with a collection of videos, helpful links, and doing a CiviliNation Harassment Barometer detailing the current online environment. CiviliNation has a mission “to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information, without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment or lies.”


We are not mere users of technology, but digital citizens that play an active role in curbing abusive behavior. As the CiviliNation Harassment Barometer will point out over time, the state of online civility is constantly in flux--just like our streets. We should be empowered that WE are the web, and we are a stakeholder in its future. How, for example, did New York City’s homicide rate drop 85 percent from 1990 to last year? Just like a city, the online civility is constantly in flux and often tied to a combination of policies, improving methods of reporting, and increasing a community-wide effort to curbing wrongful behavior.

What we are starting to seeing is initiatives very similar in nature to Neighborhood Watch programs. You may be alone in your house, but your house is in a neighborhood. Likewise, you may be viewing your online behavior as a solitary pursuit, but really you are part of a larger community that can look after one another and assist in improving the overall tone.


In order to improve online civility, we need to do a much better job of engaging all of the different groups in order to understand each group’s concerns and ideas. One area that could dramatically improve over the coming years is the coordination between parents, educators, and administrators in regards to social media and tech use. These groups are often unclear as to what the other is doing, or should be doing. As a parent, you should be encouraged to understand your school’s social media and tech policies, and take advantage of programs and events your school may offer.

Photo courtesy of

Written by

David Polgar

David Ryan Polgar is a two-time TEDx and a respected tech commentator whose ideas concerning cyber ethics, digital citizenship, and humanizing the online experience have been featured in The Boston Globe, Financial Times, Sydney Morning Herald, SirusXM,, HuffPost Live, and more. With a background as an attorney and college professor, he digs below the surface to examine our tech use from an ethical, legal, and emotional perspective.

Often referred to as a Tech Ethicist, Polgar has become a unique voice in the ways to humanize the web and improve online culture. Standing at the intersection of tech, business, and ethics, he specializes in utilizing technology with the purpose of maximizing the human experience. Polgar has recently partnered with the digital ad agency 5Loom/IMRE on a "Humanizing Your Brand" project that has been given to Fortune 500 execs, along with giving a presentation on being creative in an age of info overload to Smith College’s Executive Education program. He recently launched, which is interviewing a diverse range of voices about our evolving relationship with tech.