A digital citizen refers to a person utilizing information technology (IT) in order to engage in society, politics, and government participation. K. Mossberger, et al. define digital citizens as "those who use the Internet regularly and effectively". In qualifying as a digital citizen, a person generally must have extensive skills and knowledge in using the Internet through computers, mobile phones, and web-ready devices to interact with private and public organizations.
A digital citizen is someone who is aware of their technological surroundings.
People characterizing themselves as digital citizens often use IT extensively, creating blogs, using social networks, and participating in web journalism sites. Although digital citizenship potentially begins when any child, teen, and/or adult signs up for an email address, posts pictures online, uses e-commerce to buy merchandise online, and/or participates in any electronic function that is B2C or B2B, the process of becoming a digital citizen goes beyond simple Internet activity. In the framework of T.H. Marshall’s perspective on citizenship’s three traditions (liberalism, republicanism, and ascriptive hierarchy), digital citizenry can occur alongside the promotion of equal economic opportunity, as well as increased political participation and civic duty. Digital citizenship eliminates exclusionary elements of ascriptive hierarchy in that the Internet does not exclude those wish to participate in its realm based on race, religion, or class – elements previously used to exclude people from even becoming traditional citizens.
Highly developed states possess the capacity to link their respective governments with digital sites. Such sites function in ways such as illuminating recent legislation, educating current and future policy objectives, lending agency toward political candidates, and allowing citizens to voice themselves in a political way. Likewise, the generation of these sites has been linked to increased voting advocacy. Lack of access toward becoming a digital citizen can be a serious drawback, since many elementary procedures such as tax reports filing, birth registration, and use of Web sites to support candidates in political campaigns (E-democracy) etc. have been transferred to only be available via the Internet. Furthermore, many cultural and commercial entities only publicize information on web pages. Non-digital citizens will not be able to retrieve this information and this may lead to social isolation or economic stagnation. The gap between digital citizens and non-digital citizens is often referred to as the digital divide. Currently, the digital divide is a subject of academic debate as access to the Internet has increased, but the place in which the Internet is accessed (work, home, public library, etc.) has a significant effect on how such access will be utilized, if even in a manner related to citizenry. Recent scholarship has correlated the desire to be technologically proficient with greater belief in computer access equity, and thus, digital citizenship (Shelley, et al.).
In developing countries digital citizens are sparser. They consist of the people in such countries who utilize technology to overcome their localized obstacles including development issues, corruption, and even military conflict. An examples of such citizens are African nationals using mobile phones where landlines and infrastructure are weak, political activists in the Middle-East such as during the Egyptian Revolution.
Engagement of youth
A recent survey revealed that teenager and young adults spend more time on the Internet than watching TV. Digital youth can be generally viewed as the test market for the next generation’s digital content and services. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook have come to the fore in sites where youth participate and engage with others on the Internet. Vast amounts of money are spent annually to research the demographic by hiring psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists in order to discover habits, values and fields of interest Particularly in the United States, “Social media use has become so pervasive in the lives of American teens that having a presence on a social network is almost synonymous with being online; 95% of all teens ages 12-17 are now online and 80% of those online teens are users of social media sites”. However, movements such as these appear to benefit strictly those wishing to advocate for their business towards youth. The critical time when young people are developing their civic identities is between the ages 15–22. During this time they develop three attributes: civic literacy, civic skills and civic attachment that comprise civic engagement later reflected in political actions of their adult lives.
An open Internet as delegated by a state’s government is necessary to instill a sense of trust, legitimacy, and participation in the state’s citizenry. WikiLeaks represents an occurrence where particular political actors have criticized and taken citizen action toward revealing the government’s unnecessary clandestine activity online. “The benefit of transparency isn’t just catching red-handed bastards. It’s also about collaborating and coming together with a more engaged citizenry.” The Internet is a reading-intensive medium that may challenge full access and participation to youth. For youth to fully participate and realize their presence on the Internet, a quality level of reading comprehension is required. “The average government Web site, for examples, requires an eleventh-grade level of reading comprehension, even though about half of the U.S. population reads at an eighth-grade level or lower”. So despite the Internet being a place irrespective of certain factors such as race, religion, and class, education plays a large part in a person’s capacity to present themselves online in a formal manner conducive towards their citizenry. Concurrently, education also affects people’s motivation to participate online.
Limits on the use of data
International OECD Guidelines state that "personal data should be relevant to the purposes for which they are to be used, and to the extent necessary for those purposes should be accurate, complete, and kept up to date". Also Article 8 prevents subjects to certain exceptions. Meaning that certain things cannot be published online revealing race, ethnicity, religion, political stance, health, and sex life. This is enforced generally by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)- but very generally. For example, the FTC did bring an action against Microsoft for preventing to properly protect their customers’ personal information.
The FTC does play a significant role in protecting the digital citizen. However, individuals’ public records are increasingly useful to the government and highly sought after. This is because this material can help the government detect a variety of crime such as fraud, drug distribution rings, terrorist cells, and so forth. This allows for an easier ability to properly profile a suspected criminal and keep an eye on them . Although there are a variety of ways to gather information on an individual through credit card history, employment history, and so on- the internet is becoming the most desirable information gatherer. The two aspects that have caused the internet to be a greater collector of information is the façade of security and amount of information that can be stored on the internet. Anonymity is proven to be very rare online as ISPs can keep track of an individual, account information, web surfing durations, and so forth.
The nine elements of digital citizenship
According to digitalcitizenship.net, the nine elements (or themes) of digital citizenship are:
- Digital access: This is perhaps one of the most fundamental blocks to being a digital citizen. However, due to socioeconomic status, location, and other disabilities- some individuals may not have digital access. Recently, schools have been becoming more connected with the internet, often offering computers, and other forms of access. This can be offered through kiosks, community centers, and open labs. This most often is associated with the digital divide and factors associated with such. 
- Digital commerce: This is the ability for users to recognize that much of the economy is regulated online. It also deals with the understanding of the dangers and benefits of online buying, using credit cards online, and so forth. As with the advantages and legal activities- there is also dangerous activities such as illegal downloads, gambling, drug deals, pornography, plagiarism, and so forth.
- Digital communication: This element deals with understanding the variety of online communication mediums such as email, instant messaging, Facebook messenger, the variety of apps, and so forth. There is a standard of etiquette associated with each medium.
- Digital literacy: This deals with the understanding of how to use various digital devices. For example, how to properly search for something on a search engine versus a database. How to use various online logs. Oftentimes many educational institutions will help form an individual’s digital literacy.
- Digital etiquette: As discussed in the third element, digital communication, this is the expectation that various mediums require a variety of etiquette. Certain mediums demand more appropriate behavior and language than others.
- Digital law: This is where enforcement occurs for illegal downloads, plagiarizing, hacking, creating viruses, sending spams, identity theft, cyberbullying, and so forth.
- Digital rights and responsibilities: This is the set of rights digital citizens have such as privacy, speech, and so forth.
- Digital health: Digital citizens must be aware of the physical stress placed on their bodies by internet usage. They must be aware to not become overly dependent on the internet causing eye strain, headaches, stress problems, and so on.
- Digital security: This simply means that citizens must take measures to be safe by practicing using difficult passwords, virus protection, backing up data, and so forth.
- Mossberger, Karen. "Digital Citizenship - The Internet, Society and Participation" By Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Ramona S. McNeal." 23 Nov. 2011. ISBN 978-0819456069
- The 19th International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Engineering. p. 742. ISBN 978-3-642-37270-4. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
- Ohler, Jason B. Digital Community, Digital Citizen. p. 25. ISBN 978-1412971447. Retrieved 6 June 2015.
- "Have Your Say - Are you a digital citizen?". bbc.co.uk.
- 8. Marshall, T. H. 1992. The Problem Stated with the Assistance of Alfred Marshall [originally delivered in 1949]. In Citizenship and Social Class, T. H. Marshall and T. Bottomore, 3–51. London: Pluto Perspectives.
- "Africa's cell phone boom creates a base for low-cost banking". usatoday.com.
- Restoring Trust in Government: The Potential of Digital Citizen Participation
- "Youth Spend More Time on Web than TV:Study", Reuters, 24 July 2003, Retrieved 4 Dec. 2003
- Youth as E-Citizens: Engaging the Digital Generation
- "How American Teens Navigate the New World of 'digital Citizenship'". Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. Web. 23 Nov. 2011.
- Delli Carpini, The Youth Engagement Initiative Strategy Paper, 10 Educational leaders today are preparing the educational system "American education from pre-K to 12 and beyond to better prepare students to thrive in the global economy." Today's youth needs to be exposed and prepared for the world they will be living in.
- "How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century". TIME.com. 10 December 2006.
- http://www.ottawacitizen.com/health/Internet+pushing+governments+more+open+digital+expert+says/5736026/story.html[dead link]
- 7. Mossberger, Karen. "Digital Citizenship - The Internet, Society and Participation" By Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Ramona S. McNeal." 23 Nov. 2011. ISBN 978-0819456069
- The Digital Person - Technology and Privacy in the Information Age - Chapter 1
- The Digital Person - Technology and Privacy in the Information Age - Chapter 9
- Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship, digitalcitizenship.net
- Digital Citizenship in Schools - Excerpt