Digital technology has permeated so many aspects of life that it is almost impossible to get past a day without using it. We communicate through texts, hitch a ride to work with an app, pay for meals cashlessly, and post snippets of our life online.
Undoubtedly, knowing how to navigate the digital world is an essential skill for every 21st-century dweller.
Some parents may find that their children pick up digital technology so naturally that there is no need to deliberately educate their children on how to use digital devices. However, children still need to be taught how to participate responsibly in the online space. An education in digital literacy is thus crucial in guiding kids to using digital technology safely and appropriately.
Why is digital literacy important for your child?
- Prevalence of digital technology
There is no escape from digital technology today. Having basic digital skills is necessary for anyone to get by in the world. In school, students are frequently required to complete essays, presentation slides, and other media projects that will require the use of digital technology. Out of school, many processes from banking to government procedures have also gone or are going digital. Children need to be familiarised with e-mails, websites, and apps to ensure they will not be lost when they need to handle online transactions in future.
- Aid their learning
Digital technology offers a myriad of possibilities for learning tools and educational resources in the form of websites, apps, and videos. Furthermore, the internet is a wealth of information, making it great for self-learning and research. As such, digital technology offers parents and teachers with a limitless number of resources to engage children in learning.
The internet as a source of information also teaches children to think critically. Not all information on the internet is reliable. Hence, an education in digital literacy can teach kids to assess and filter out suspicious sources, and train them to find reliable and useful sources when looking for information.
- Keep them safe
Explicit instruction is also required to equip children with safe online habits. Safe digital practices include measures to protect privacy, to surf in secure websites, to guard against cyber-security threats, and to take care of one’s emotional wellbeing.
Some parents make the decision to abstain digital use from their children to protect them from the numerous risks. But given the ubiquity of digital use today, experts agree that it is better to expose kids to technology early on and teach them how to use it responsibly, rather than let children fall into digital traps on their own later on.
- Equip them
At the workplace, most jobs will require at least a basic knowledge of word processing and internet navigation skills. With more media and IT-heavy jobs in the market, proficiencies in image or video processing and coding are also in massive demand. Exposing children to such skills at an early age eases the learning curve for them should they decide to embark on such professions in future.
How can you educate your child in digital literacy?
Transmitting digital literacy skills to your child should be a deliberate effort. Here are some ways to get you started on equipping your child with digital literacy:
- Monitor digital usage
At a young age, children do not know their way around the internet yet. A good way to keep them safe is to monitor their usage and set in place child-safe protections on your web browser. This way, you can have peace of mind knowing your child is not going to unsavoury webpages, and you can guide them through what they want to do online. You also do not want them to become overreliant on the internet or digital devices, so setting some guidelines on daily limits can keep them in check.
- Talk to them about it
Monitoring your child’s digital usage should not stop there. Parents should encourage conversations about their child’s digital usage and teach them how to use the internet responsibly. For example, ask them about the website that they have found: What kind of site is it? Who is the author of the text? Do you think it is a reliable source? This spurs children to think critically and know what to watch out for in finding useful information.
For older kids who can surf independently, making it a habit to talk to them encourages them to tell you what they have been up to online. Doing so allows parents to identify when their children are at risk and take necessary measures to counsel or correct their actions.
- Involve digital technology for learning
While digital technology is a handy tool, not enough people take advantage of its functions to educate children. The most straightforward way is to use online resources to supplement learning. Videos and interactive graphics allow children to experience different ways of learning.
Digital technology can also be incorporated into daily life to demonstrate responsible and positive use. For instance, you can involve your child the next time you use a maps app to teach them how to navigate a route, and let them explore parts of the country that they’ve never been to.
- Enrol children in a school with a digital literacy programme
Once your child enters school, it can become harder to control their digital habits. One good way to ensure your child still gets the digital exposure and guidance is by choosing a school that includes education in digital literacy in their curriculum.
Some schools following the IB programme in Singapore incorporate digital literacy education in their curriculum. One example is the Canadian International School, an international school in Singapore certified in their commitment to empowering students in their digital abilities. With the school’s ‘One to World’ program, students are required to own their own computing devices by grade 4 of their IB elementary school education, and they receive guidance on how to use the internet safely and responsibly throughout their years in the international high school.
Digital literacy is a necessary skill to have today. Ensure your child gets the digital education they need by being personally involved, and by enrolling them in a school that cares about students’ digital literacy. With the correct interventions, the risks of digital technology can be mitigated, and children can learn to tap into the potentials of digital technology as discerning online citizens.