Technology is constantly developing and changing the way we live and work. As the world continues to become more digitised and automated, digital literacy skills are going to become more and more important. But what is digital literacy and what can you do to support your child to develop their digital literacy skills?
What is digital literacy?
Digital literacy is the knowledge and ability to use technology critically and creatively to find information, solve problems or complete tasks. It is also about knowing how to act safely and respectfully online.
Even though children today are ‘digital natives’ (they were born into a technological world), digital literacy doesn’t necessarily come naturally to them. Children may find it easy to locate information online, but do they have the skills to examine it critically, to know whether it is trustworthy and accurate? They may regularly see ads on the TV, but are they aware that advertising is intended to manipulate the audience into buying a product? They may easily upload photos to social media sites, but do they know how to act responsibly and safely while online?
What is happening in schools?
Digital literacy is already a focus in schools. Digital Technologies has been developed as one of the learning areas of the Australian Curriculum, and digital literacy skills are taught in English, alongside other, more traditional forms of literacy. Schools are recognising that digital technologies impact all areas of our lives and are using technology across all subject areas in new ways. Students are able to use a wide range of technologies to gather information, solve problems, be creative and collaborate with their peers, while also thinking critically.
What can you do at home?
There are many things that you can do at home to support your child’s digital literacy skills:
Use technology together.
This is a great way for your child to understand how to use media positively – and they will enjoy spending time with you! It can also help you to monitor the content that your child is accessing, both online and on TV.
Talk about technology and the media.
Talk to your child about the ads you see together and what the advertisers have done to try to convince you to buy their product. If you’re watching or reading the news together, talk to them about how the media can sometimes present only one side of a story. This will help them to think critically when they consume messages through technology.
Learning through play.
Try to encourage your child to develop their digital literacy skills through games and other activities. Video games such as Minecraft can be great for developing your child’s digital literacy skills – as they encourage players to creatively design cities, collaborate with others and practise problem solving skills. Talking to your child about the games they play gives them an opportunity to share their learning with you.
Balance technology use.
Try to make sure your child balances their technology use as well – set limits for screen time, and make sure they spend plenty of time playing outdoors and doing non-screen activities, like playing sport and music and reading books. Try to model this positive behaviour too, by enjoying technology on occasion, but letting your child see you enjoy other activities as well.
Talk about online safety.
Talk to your child about the information they share about themselves online. Make sure your child knows that when they upload something to the internet, it is nearly impossible to remove it again. Talk to your child about choosing safe usernames and passwords and keeping them secure; and set up the privacy settings of any online accounts together. Most social media platforms have an age restriction, so always check this before your child sets up an online account.
For more information about ways that you can make sure your child is safe online, check out the eSafety website.