Digital Literacy: What It Is & Why It’s Important for Kids
Today’s students get continually bombarded with digital information. They’re exposed to a mass of data almost from the moment they’re born. It comes at them from all angles: apps, games, music, videos, etc. But it’s naive to expect kids to know what to do with this information. They don’t possess the skills necessary to access, process or use it responsibly. That’s why training them in digital literacy is so important to their overall development.
What Is Digital Literacy?
Simply put, the term ‘digital literacy’ means being able to understand and use technology appropriately. Digital literacy includes virtual learning and E-learning. It enables students to develop technological skills, interact with others in digital environments, and learn social responsibility.
Today’s children need different types of skills than past generations. In order to think critically, evaluate their work and engage globally, kids need to understand and apply technological know-how. In fact, becoming digitally literate helps them understand the world, how they fit in it, and how it impacts their overall development.
Backed by the right knowledge, skills and attitudes, young people can learn to find the information they need, use it responsibly, and become good digital citizens.
5 Reasons Digital Literacy Is Important
A study by Learning.com gives us insight into the importance of digital literacy. It found that 75 percent of fifth- and eighth-grade students were not proficient in 21st-century technological skills. That needs to change if we’re to raise our kids to be functioning, capable adults in this information-centered society.
Five main reasons we need to help our kids become digitally literate include:
1. Enhanced Learning at School & Home
Modern schools teach students to use many online tools. This includes apps, online notebooks, learning platforms and YouTube tutorials to research and apply information. Kids use that information to write reports, create projects and presentations, and take tests that reflect their learning. This type of enriched learning aids them in their overall development.
2. Internet Safety
Kids need to learn how to distinguish between real life and fantasy. That can be particularly difficult online. They’re especially vulnerable to online scams and cyberbullying, as we’ll discuss more below. Digital literacy enables students to recognize the good and the bad – and stay away from danger.
3. Ethical & Responsible Communication
This simply refers to doing and saying what’s right when communicating with others via many means. This includes email, online chat, social media or shared platforms. Kids need to understand that it’s not OK to say or do whatever they want online. It’s never OK to bully someone or put them down – for any reason.
4. Improved Digital Equity
Regardless of their circumstances, all children deserve the right to access technology and learn digital literacy. Without equal access, millions of school children would not be able to connect to the Internet. They also couldn’t use technological devices like computers and ipads to learn, grow and become successful in the world. These basic resources allow students worldwide to meaningfully participate in both classroom and remote learning alongside their classmates.
5. Future Empowerment through Lifelong Skills
Teaching youngsters the technological skills to interact and work online empowers them to live more successful lives. Knowing how to code, program, digitally write, create or illustrate using computer software makes students valuable to potential employers later in life. Additionally, those types of skills benefit students in their personal lives, as well.
The best way to help our kids live an adapted, fulfilled life is by giving them the skills they need to interact with others digitally.
Quick Tips to Enhance Your Kids’ Digital Literacy
Leaving kids to their own devices online is never a good idea. Without proper use, supervision and understanding, the digital world can be overwhelming – and even dangerous. However, by teaching young people some common proficiencies like the following, we can enable them to flourish and thrive:
- Sending Emails
- Navigating Websites
- Coding & Programming Websites
- Programming Apps
- Creating and Maintaining Blogs
- Using Social Media
But how can we teach kids these digital literacy skills? One step at a time!
First, sit down with them and look at information online. For example, peruse and compare websites or blogs and their content. Teach your children to watch out for things like online scams. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Show them how the online world works, who can see what they post, and the digital footprints they leave behind.
Second, walk them through the steps of how to do tasks, one by one. Maybe your child needs to learn to use a blogging platform or learn HTML for coding purposes. If you’ve never done that, ask a trusted friend or family member who has to help. Remind your kids not to post sensitive information online. It could endanger them or a loved one. Explain why that’s important and what could happen if they misuse information or provide it to the wrong person.
Third, model good digital behavior. For instance, talk to children about appropriate versus inappropriate language. Practice drafting emails or writing social media posts together. Talk about cyberbullying, and teach kids to seek help from an adult if they ever encounter it on their own.
Keeping an eye on kids, teaching these skills at home, and letting them practice digital literacy during their overall development accomplishes several things. It gives students confidence, increases their technological skills, and keeps them safe when you’re not around.
Preparing Kids for a Digital World
The amount of digital information kids face these days is staggering. But by learning what your children need to know, you can take steps to set them up for success.
If you feel ill-equipped to help your kids learn digital literacy, let us help! KidzToPros offers a wide variety of after-school programs in coding, programming, digital writing, engineering and design. We teach kids essential information and skills that keep them knowledgeable, current and competitive. Find a program now – and help your children prosper!