In a world dominated by electronics of all sorts, it is important that caregivers keep their children informed on the devices they use. Teaching digital literacy to our device-wielding children is an important step in keeping them safe when searching the world-wide-web, as well as fostering skills they will carry for a lifetime.
Digital literacy can be defined as “the knowledge, skills and attitudes that allow children to flourish and thrive in an increasingly global digital world, being both safe and empowered, in ways that are appropriate to their age and local cultures and contexts” (Unicef).
Why is Digital Literacy Important?
Educating your child on digital literacy fosters a lifelong set of skills that prove priceless as they grow. Digital Literacy supports the educational process, increases online safety, teaches digital responsibility, improves social opportunities, improves digital equity, and supports lifelong skills.
1 . Education and Technology
Many schools use technology or computers daily for learning; the more adept a student is with using tools that are used for their education, the better they will be. Just as students are required and expected to know how to use a pencil and paper, the same goes for technology.
2 . Digital Safety and Responsibility
There are many risks associated with use of the internet, especially among children. Educating your child on these risks and creating digital boundaries is an important step in helping your child prepare for possible risks, which in turn teaches them how to use their devices more responsibly.
“Digital literacy skills help students master their ability to understand and effectively navigate these challenges, making them more responsible digital citizens.” (Learning.com)
3 . Communication and Socialization
Communicating online opens up a huge social window connecting friends and family together quickly and efficiently. While parents should always closely monitor children's online communications, allowing children to communicate online is a great way to teach them social boundaries.
By educating your child on proper online communications, children will be more easily able to realize when something feels "not right."
4 . Digital Equity
Creating a child who is digitally literate also works to improve digital equity among students by helping “to bridge the digital divide." When different schools and child-serving institutions help support digital literacy, they can help to create a more well-rounded digital education in underrepresented populations.
With digital equity, safety, responsibility, skills, etc. being literate supports lifelong skills. Technology is constantly changing, so it is important for a child to stay up to date on the latest risks and safe guards associated with the use of technology. Their digital skills follow from childhood to adulthood and can open the doors for many different careers and pathways.
How Does Digital Equity Affect Our Children?
Equity refers to the just and fair access to a certain amenity for all people. Unlike the term equality (meaning the same for all parties), equity addresses populations that may not have the same advantages as others (NACE).
Digital Equity addresses the ability for all students to receive a strong education regarding technology, as well as having access to the technological tools we use everyday.
Disadvantaged populations include families of color, single-parent households, peoples living in poverty, etc.
According to Emerald Group Publishing, “ensuring quality education for all is a vital tool in the fight to eradicate poverty”.
Children living in poverty, or facing other social disadvantages, are often not receiving a quality academic support and are lacking resources that can help alleviate that learning loss.
Without the adequate resources, technology included, they are at a disadvantage for becoming digital literate. Lacking digital literacy creates learning gaps and obstacles that hinder their learning now but can also affect their opportunities into adulthood.
The skills gained by a firm education in digital literacy follow children into adulthood and if those skills are never fostered it can affect their future opportunities regarding employment, secondary education, and more.
COVID-19 and Digital Equity
Covid-19 has created more of a gap between digitally literate students and those students who are not. Although that gap was already evident, the emergence of COVID-19 has created a much larger division in learning loss among disadvantaged students. Quarantine and stay-at-home learning relied heavily on a student's use of technology, and children who do not have fair access to this technology or do not understand how to use it fell behind their peers immeasurably.
Some school districts provided technological resources to their students, but students who were never educated on digital literacy were not prepared enough to appropriately complete lessons online.
“Even before the pandemic, evidence was clear that digital disadvantage correlates strongly with educational, social and economic disadvantage (Emerald Group Publishing).”
The Brass Tacks
Educating your child on digital literacy will better prepare them for our modern world, as well as help them understand appropriate online boundaries.
Teaching your child how to properly use their devices is the first step to keeping them safe from the different risks associated with using the Internet.
Nascimbeni,, F. (n.d.). Digital Literacy for Children: Exploring Definitions and Frameworks . Retrieved December 28, 2022, from https://www.unicef.org/globalinsight/media/1271/file/%20UNICEF-Global-Insight-digital-literacy-scoping-paper-2020.pdf
Team, L. (2022, December 7). Why Digital Literacy is Important for Students. Learning. Retrieved December 28, 2022, from https://www.learning.com/blog/reasons-digital-literacy-is-important-for-students/
National Association of Colleges and Employers. (n.d.). Equity - Definition. Equity Definition. Retrieved December 28, 2022, from https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/equity-definition/
Stone, D. E. (2020, September 2). Digital Connectivity, Education and Poverty Eradication. Emerald Publishing. Retrieved December 28, 2022, from https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/opinion-and-blog/digital-connectivity-education-and-poverty-eradication