Good Digital Parenting
Blog | Oct. 14, 2016

Increasing Civility Online

Trust & Safety for Friendbase, Digital Citizenship Summit co-founder

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

Educate

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.” 

Empower

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.

Engage

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 Flickr.com