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The Importance of Digital Literacy for Children

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We know what it means to be literate: to read and to write at a proficient level. But what does digital literacy mean and why is it important that children be as equally proficient in it?

Digital literacy is not just about your level of digital competency or your ability to google, it relates to your ability to find, use, and disseminate information. What differentiates mere digital users to those who are digitally literate, is the ability to distribute information found online. Whether this be through the creation of blogs, the use of social media, or their ability to contribute to the digital landscape through website coding and app creation.

No longer is it enough to be literate in reading and writing, children are now expected to be literate online. But how early should children learn and develop digital literacy? According to a recent Paper Writer survey, 35.5% of surveyed Australian parents believed that it was appropriate to start encouraging or supporting their children to develop their technology skills as early as ages 5 to 7. Whereas, close to three in 10 (27.9%) think that a later age of 8 and 10 is more appropriate for developing these skills.

Regardless of what age you ultimately deem it appropriate for children to develop these new skills, if children are already at school, their skills are being developed during school hours. Even for those parents who see themselves (38.4%) as only somewhat tech savvy, children are growing up in an environment that truly hones in and encourages digital literacy.

With these new skills, children are at a great advantage for their future career, whatever that may be. Tech saviness doesn’t only help those aspiring to code programs or work in graphic design, it ultimately helps all students succeed through any degree at university or course at TAFE. With their future always on our minds, how can you encourage children in kindy to year 2 to grow their digital literacy?

Ethics, Fan-Fiction, and Plagiarism

Plagiarism may be heavily warned against in school, but children need to fully understand the ethical reasons behind it. An advantage of teaching digital literacy at the age of 5, when most children begin their primary schooling, is they can begin learning how information should be treated when found online.

The ability to translate information into a new way is a skill that children often ignore. If they can’t easily reword a sentence, they may just skip that idea as they don’t know how to properly cite the owner of the information. As citation isn’t usually focused on during primary school, be sure to show learning children that although some information is general knowledge and doesn’t typically require referencing, but that certain pieces of worthwhile information just need to acknowledge the author. One of the best ways to keep children from plagiarising is by teaching them to further explain a quote or piece of information rather than just copying or even rewording a single sentence.

The fanfiction community is a great example of how characters, ideas, and information can be transformed into a fresh work. Of course, what sets fanfiction apart from being considered plagiarism is the lack of funds being earnt off the initial author’s ideas. Information is published to be spread, and fanfiction shows that by merely identifying the initial idea and author, the new work is not only benefiting the student for using it, but the author. Just as the Harry Potter franchise has continued to grow due to its online community, so too does the notability of certain websites or writers.

Understanding originality and quality

There is a plethora of information and websites on the internet that we will never come across in our entire life, but in the ones that we do, the information is not always original. Now, this doesn’t mean that the entire page is plagiarised, but merely that it has been regurgitated. This is especially apparent when researching historical events. As there are often only a few primary sources, there is only so much that can be written on the event from the limited resources. Once children are aware of this, it is important that they are constantly looking out for quality, original web documents.

When children aged 7-10 are completing their next assignment for class, or if they are researching something they are interested in, ask for their feedback from different websites they visit.

Was the information fresh and informative? Did it use primary or good sources to write the piece? By asking these questions, they will begin to think critically about all of the information they process when online.

Creating Original Content

The best way you can encourage digital literacy, digital citizenship, and really equip children for their future careers, is by having them create and share original content online. From the ages of 5-7 children can begin experimenting with blogging platforms like WordPress, the uploading videos YouTube and PowerPoint slides as an alternative way of presenting their work. Using digital platforms such as this provides a unique approach to developing a child’s approach to problem solving and presenting information appropriate for a digital landscape.

Encouraging these new, emerging skills will not only increase and cement their digital literacy and competency, it will strengthen their creativity. Education often forces children to merely regurgitate information, but by using their creativity to create something new and interesting with information, they will retain information better while growing their artistic and technological skills. And, these skills are what will best assist them in their future learning and future careers.

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