Our children don't recall a time when they didn't have access to a world of information and entertainment at their fingertips. It's literally child's play to them to use technology and to locate information online.
It is our job as parents to help our kids navigate the world they were born into, but may not yet have the skills to assess critically. Digital literacy is an important skill to possess that allows us to decide whether the media we are consuming is trustworthy, accurate and safe.
Learning how to behave like a responsible digital citizen is also important. Essential skills for our children (and ourselves!) to learn include:
- understanding the implications of sharing photographs and videos of themselves and their friends through social media platforms,
- communicating online with people they know (or don't), and
- handling negative (and potentially dangerous) online behaviour.
How to Build Digital Literacy
Side by Side
The best way to support your children in building their digital literacy is to take part in screen time together, side by side. Children can learn positive digital technology when parents model the behaviour they'd like to see in their kids, and this extends to digital literacy.
Part of their World
Encourage your children to view digital technology use as an extension of their real-world interactions, so they understand that what they say and do online can have repercussions in their everyday lives.
Manage Digital Distractions
Managing digital distractions (the constant jumping between apps and social media or gaming platforms) is a valuable skill to learn. Encourage children to spend time focusing on one game or app at a time, to reduce fatigue and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
Taking regular breaks as part of digital technology use (as opposed to cramming in as much as they can in the time they're allowed) also enables a healthy way to approach screen use.
Help your children to determine whether an app or game is trustworthy by helping them research it. How much can they find out about it online? Which company made it? What information are they asking of you? What will they do with your information? The more your children can find out about a new app or game, the better they'll be able to decide whether it's trustworthy or safe.
Just because your kids know all the latest apps and games, and you feel like you're playing catch-up, don't assume they understand the implications of using the app, and what information is being gathered about them while they use it.
Who Are You?
Digital literacy includes understanding that the way you represent yourself online is an extension of you as a person. What does your user name say about you? Your profile photo? Who would you like to see (or not see) this information?
Accentuate the Positive
Look for positive ways to use digital technology. Digital literacy doesn't need to be all doom and gloom, where children are afraid to be in a digital space.
- Spend time with your children while on their devices. Help them understand how what they see relates to real life.
- Support them to think critically about the messages they consume through tech.
- Guide your kids towards content that develops skills like problem-solving, collaboration and creativity.
- Talk early and often about privacy and online safety.
- Teach respectful online behaviour and how to be good digital citizens.
- Help your child respond to negative online experiences.
Media review organisations:
Find age appropriate movies, books, apps, television shows, video games, websites and music for your children.
Digital Literacy Resources:
- Learning Potential (Department of Education): Learning about the digital world.
- Telethon Kids Institute: Raising young children in a digital world: Practical tips for parents
- Office of the eSafety Commissioner: Parents
- eSmart: Cyber and Digital Literacy Resources
Struggling with Cyber Bullying? Kids Helpline offers free, confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling for young people aged 5 to 25 and their carers.