Why is digital literacy necessary for kids?

According to UNICEF, digital literacy is “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.” The definition may sound complex, but in simpler terms, digital literacy goes beyond technical know-how. It is the ability that allows kids to use their knowledge, skills and attitudes that allow them to be safe and empowered in the digital world.

Why is it important?

Most students have access to the internet either in schools or homes and have a basic idea of using phones, laptops or tablets. However, the internet may be confusing or can have safety issues as well. Being digitally literate helps the kids to move beyond a process-oriented understanding of technology and apply their digital resources in their original work, creatively. They will also build upon the traditional concept of literacy and support students in using critical thinking skills. This will also help them remain safe on the internet and raise alarm when they have a safety threat.

Ways to encourage digital literacy in students

Some schools have already introduced teaching digital literacy starting from primary grades whereas others are yet to upgrade post-COVID reality and the new normal of online learning. Irrespective of whether your curriculum is accommodative of digital literacy or not, here are a few simple measures you can incorporate right away.

Teach students how to evaluate the information they find online: Explain to them how to judge if a source is reliable and if the information they received is true or false. To start with, a teacher can provide a list of educational resources for students to see as examples of trustworthy websites. Before recommending, research about the sites to ensure they are safe and reliable.

Discuss online privacy with students: Invest in exclusive classes on how to choose and save passwords, when it is not appropriate to disclose personal information and how to use social media responsibly. Explain to them how their favourite apps or websites store information and what they do with it.

Developing online etiquette among students: Talk to them about which images or texts are inappropriate to post and how to communicate online while preventing bullying, abuse or other internet offenses. Encourage respectful communication both online and offline. Students should be made aware that they are responsible for what they say or do online.

Teach digital writing skills: Teach students how to include links and references while writing online posts, craft their posts according to their target audience, choose images for their posts, etc. Just like how we have letter writing assignments, activities like writing posts online, blogs, etc., will help students get an understanding of the present online media.