10 Themes of Digital Citizenship

10 Themes of Digital Citizenship

Digital technologies and being online provides young people with opportunities to create, play, connect, socialise, and to learn. Digital citizenship is having the ability to positively and actively engage in society through the use of digital technology. In order to become effective digital citizens, young people need to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills. The competencies required include having the digital skills to evaluate online information, online consumer awareness, and understanding privacy and security issues. It also includes general citizenship competencies such as respect and empathy for others.

What are the 10 themes of digital citizenship?

For young people to become effective digital citizens there are several competencies they need to develop. The Council of Europe Digital Citizenship Education Expert Group has identified 10 themes/domains to define the competencies that Digital Citizens should acquire. Each of the themes is made up of a combination of values, skills, attitudes, and knowledge and critical understanding.

The themes fall into three main categories:

  • Being online
  • Well-being online
  • Rights online


Grouped into these three categories, the 10 themes of digital citizenship are:

Being online

  • Access and Inclusion

This concerns access to the digital environment and includes a range of competences that relate not only to the overcoming of different forms of digital exclusion but also to the skills needed by future citizens to participate in digital spaces that are open towards any kind of minority or diversity of opinion.

  • Learning and Creativity

This concerns the willingness and the attitude towards learning in digital environments over the life course, both to develop and express different forms of creativity, with different tools, in different contexts. It covers competences of personal and professional development to prepare citizens to face the challenges of technology-rich societies with confidence and competence, and in innovative ways.

  • Media and Information Literacy

This concerns the ability to interpret, understand and express creativity through digital media, with critical thinking. Being media and information literate is something that needs to be developed through education and through a constant exchange with the environment around us: it is essential to go beyond simply “being able to” use one or another media, for example, or simply to “be informed” about something. A digital citizen has to maintain an attitude relying on critical thinking as a basis for meaningful and effective participation in his/her community.


Wellbeing online

  • Ethics and Empathy

This domain concerns online ethical behaviour and interaction with others based on skills such as the ability to recognise and understand the feelings and perspectives of others. Empathy constitutes an essential requirement for positive online interaction and for realising the possibilities that the digital world affords.

  • Health and Wellbeing

Digital citizens inhabit both virtual and real spaces. For this reason, the basic skills of digital competence are not sufficient. Individuals also require a set of attitudes, skills, values and knowledge that render them more aware of issues of health and wellbeing. Health and wellbeing in a digitally rich world, implies being aware of the issues and the opportunities that can affect wellness including but not limited to online addiction, ergonomics and posture, and excessive-use of digital and mobile devices.

  • ePresence and Communications

This domain refers to the development of the personal and interpersonal qualities that support digital citizens in building and maintaining an online presence and identity as well as online interactions that are positive, coherent and consistent. It covers competences such as online communication and interaction with others in virtual social spaces and also the management of one’s data and traces.


Rights Online

  • Active Participation

Active participation relates to the competences that citizens need to be fully aware of how they interact within the digital environments they inhabit in order to make responsible decisions, whilst participating actively and positively in the democratic cultures in which they live.

  • Rights and Responsibilities

Just as citizens enjoy rights and responsibilities in the physical world, digital citizens in the online world also have certain rights and responsibilities. Digital citizens can enjoy rights of privacy, security, access and inclusion, freedom of expression and more. However, with those rights come certain responsibilities, such as ethics and empathy and other responsibilities to ensure safe and responsible digital environment for all.

  • Privacy and Security

This domain includes two different concepts: Privacy concerns mainly the personal protection of one’s own and others’ online information, while Security is related more to one’s own awareness of online actions and behaviour. This domain covers competences like properly managing personal and others’ information shared online or dealing with online safety (like for example the use of navigation filters, passwords, antivirus and firewall software) in order to avoid dangerous or unpleasant situations.

  • Consumer Awareness

The internet, with all its dimensions like social media or other virtual social spaces, is an environment where often the fact of being a digital citizen also means being a consumer. Understanding the implications of the commercial reality of much online space is one of the competences that individuals will need to have in order to maintain their autonomy as digital citizens.

Source: Council of Europe Digital Citizenship Education Handbook

Useful Resources

All Aboard for DigiTown – A learning path for 9-12 year olds to become smart digital citizens.



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