What Is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy includes learning how to find, sort, evaluate, manage, and create information in digital forms. It is a crucial part of digital citizenship and an important extension of established concepts of media literacy. Digital literacy is essential for successful participation within a society connected by the World Wide Web.

Many parents grew up doing research that required going to a library, writing down call numbers, finding books, and then taking notes on the needed information. Now, some students can write their biology paper with research conducted on their cell phone, and most students can access university libraries through the internet, and download entire articles to their laptops for later reading.

This amazing access doesn’t just apply to academic information, the internet allows incredible access and sharing of music, photos, videos, and all kinds of art. With this amazing access, comes the necessity for ethical and critical information interaction–a skill as important as learning to read and write.

Goals of Digital Literacy:

FindHelp young people learn where and how to find reliable sources. This includes search engines for research, but also legal platforms for downloading music and art.

Sort-- Help young people learn how to identify relevant information for their project or research.

Evaluate– Help young people learn how to determine the value of a source. This includes credibility, reliability, authority (of the author, publisher, organization, study, or media).

Manage– Help children know and understand how to use information. For example, how to properly cite a source, how to apply copyright or creative commons laws, or how to safely and legally download media files (including music).

Create– Help children know how to create their own work without plagiarizing or infringing on the copyright of other works.

Most kids would never dream of stealing a CD, but many kids do not understand the copyright violation involved in downloading music files from a friend’s iPod. Plagiarism takes on a whole new danger when copying information word for word is as easy as clicking a button. Young people who do not understand how to engage ethically with media may unintentionally violate laws.

However, if parents keep current, keep communicating, and keep checking, they can help their children learn how to critically and ethically interact with this information–an essential skill for successful citizenship which will ultimately help them both professionally and academically.

Keep Current

Know what your children are working on at school and in their own projects at home. Be aware of how they use search engines in your own home–and how they choose sources to view. Familiarize yourself with copyright laws and creative commons laws. In this way, you will be able to explain to your children as you discuss and work on projects together. You will also help them learn how to protect their own work (for example, any original photos or artwork they post).

  • Visit the U.S. Copyright Office FAQ page here.

  • Learn about Creative Commons here (this site goes through all the different licenses, and how to apply them to different media).

Keep Communicating

Talk to your children about their online activities and research for school. Help them understand that copyright and creativity go hand-in-hand and that everyone benefits from respecting copyright. Help them begin to look at information critically–discuss the difference between fact and opinion, bias, and impartiality, etc.

Keep Checking

Periodically, check-in with your children to see how they are downloading music, photos, etc. Do this together–this inventory can be a fun opportunity for them to show you their favorite new songs, artists, etc. If they post their own photos online, make sure they’ve adequately protected their own art–this will help reinforce concepts of copyright and create empathy for other artists.

Find the right cybersecurity solution for you.