With the surge of misleading content online, helping your child learn to become an independent thinker is no small task.
While schools have been charged with developing students’ digital literacy skills, parents also have a role in consistently sparking deeper thinking when navigating digital environments.
The sharper a child’s digital literacy skills, the more quickly he or she can identify biased agendas and deceptive content and form thoughts, insights, and opinions independently of the digital crowd think.
Here are a few conversations to focus kids on building up digital literacy skills.
7 conversations to build digital literacy skills
- Grow visual literacy. The world expresses itself through media today, which makes visual literacy (the ability to interpret art and media content) another must-have skill for kids. According to recent reports, Snapchat has 10 billion video views a day, Facebook video 8 billion views a day, YouTube video 5 billion views. Instagram reports its users upload 25 million photos every day. This visual tsunami increases the chances your child will encounter deep fakes (AI-enhanced video), malicious memes (false information placed on photos) designed to manipulate public opinion. Discuss: Learn ways to spot deep fakes with your kids (stray hairs, no blinking, eye movement, etc.). Additional resource: Watch and discuss this video and read the post Can You Spot a Deepfake? from LifeHacker with your family.
- Search with care. Search engines scan the web and bring up relevant content. However, not all that content is credible. Understanding a search engine’s function is essential, especially when your child is researching a paper and evaluating other content. Search engines rank by keywords, not content accuracy. Ask: Is this content credible and supported by legitimate sources? Is it presented as humor or an opinion piece? Is the URL authentic and trustworthy? Additional Resource: Common Sense Media’s video Smart Online Search Tips.
- Protect, respect privacy. Kids, fueled by emotion and impulse, often move around online with little thought to personal privacy or the privacy of others. Discuss: Talk about the basics often: Where are the privacy gaps in our technology? Where are there privacy gaps in my behavior? How can we create strong passwords? Are my privacy settings current? Do I have personal details in public view, either on profile info or in my posts? The other side of privacy: Respect friends’ privacy by asking permission to post photos, keeping personal secrets, and never sharing personal details or circumstances of another person in the online space.
- Recognize and respect points of view. The web is a big place with an ocean filled with different points of view. Part of becoming digitally literate is learning how to listen to and respect the opinions of others. Exercising this skill is essential to building empathy, eliminating cyberbullying and online shaming, and becoming a positive voice in the online space. Additional resource: Discuss Dr. Michele Borba’s blog post, 9 Habits of Empathetic Children.
- Always attribute content. The internet is a big place that showcases a variety of exciting, valuable, original content. However, that content doesn’t display a visible price tag. Therefore, great content is often re-shared without giving credit to the author or creator. Discuss: Talk about the value of a person’s art, writing, photos, and research. Find examples of how to correctly cite sources and share them with your child. Follow up by checking your child’s social feeds to see that sources are being cited correctly. Coach them to add attribution when needed. Additional resource: Go through this free, 5-day course for families from CyberWise on Digital Citizenship.
- Always consider your digital footprint. A digital footprint is anywhere we’ve personally connected online. These small digital breadcrumbs — when added together and viewed as a whole — are what others see, and consequently, believe about us. The parts of our footprint include social profiles we create, comments we leave, tweets, photos, or any time others mention us online. Ask: Is this photo something that will add or subtract value from my digital footprint? Will this post, photo, or tweet affect my chances of getting into college or competing for a job? Will I be proud of this post five years from now? Additional Resource: Author Sue Scheff’s blog post Online Reputation Reboot for Teens.
- Stay current with new technology. It’s more so adults than kids that need to make a larger commitment to new technology. Part of digital literacy is keeping up with current technology and preparing for future technology. By making this learning investment, we can better understand the origin of new technologies such as AI and spinoff trends such as deep fakes. Educating ourselves on the nuances of tools such as vlogs, audio, video, AR, AI, 3D printing, and machine learning is essential to navigating the current and future landscape. Additional resources: Consider subscribing to magazines online to get you rolling: TechCrunch.com, TheNextWeb.com, DigitalTrends.com.
Like other areas that require time and consistency to develop, your child’s digital literacy skills will take time to mature. Author Tim Elmore say on his Growing Leaders blog, when it comes to raising kids to thrive in the digital era, a parent’s role is clear, “We must clearly convey values and virtues like resilience, discipline, integrity, problem-solving skills, good communication, commitment, and responsibility. That’s the critical role we can play.”
So, have fun with these conversations always recognizing that your influence matters. Look for real-life digital literacy examples to talk about, and don’t forget to celebrate the wins you see your kids achieving online.