Literacy: competence and knowledge in a specified area. Digital literacy: a set of competencies that allow you to function and participate fully in a digital world.
As part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Vision 2030, which he elaborated on during #SONA2019, he pledged to ensure that within the next five years every 10 year old child would be able to read for meaning and that government would issue learners with tablets.
As an advocate for access to internet as a basic human right and champion of the written word, I welcome this commitment from our presidency. But, with greater access to the internet, how can we ensure our youth are equipped with the skills needed to thrive, safely and securely in the online world?
PixelKids, the South African ambassador organisation to the DQ Institute, a global think-tank developed in association with the World Economic Forum, is one organisation that champions the power of technology opening up a world of possibilities for our children, aiming to provide the skills and tools needed to empower and educate them to explore the online world safely and with confidence.
Founder Jessica Wheeler, brand strategy guru and mom-of-two, says, “We want to shape confident digital explorers who can actively use technology and the internet to grow, learn and discover new ways to change the world. To do this, we need to make sure the fundamental values we teach them as parents and teachers, the protection they need from risks and the preservation of their self-identity are an equal focus; more than simply making sure every child has a device in their hands.”
In late 2018, PixelKids launched the first ever research project on the digital intelligence such as usage habits, preferences and screen time and risks facing South African children aged nine to 16. This research will be officially released at EdTech in October but here’s a taste of some of the findings measuring various facets of digital intelligence such as privacy management, critical thinking, digital footprint management, digital empathy, cyber bullying management, screen time management and digital citizen identity.
Younger (prep school) children fare better than their older counterparts in privacy management, screen time management and cyberbullying. This could be attributed to the fact that parents of younger children are more exposed to the need for digital intelligence skills – and instilling some kind of understanding/monitoring of online activity has become more prolific in smaller children.
Screen time management
Older children (aged 13 and upwards) have predominantly been left to their own devices – literally – as parents play catch up in a world that is quite difficult for us to understand. Screen time management in high school children is the most dire need. As devices become more and more prolific at this age for schoolwork, children are battling to exercise control or switch off after the lessons are over. Devices are as much a part of their school day as they are a part of the rest of the day.
We need to create space and opportunity for them to unplug.
Our young prep school children are at alarming risk of being affected by cyber threats including cyber bullying and victimisation, tech addiction, online sexual behaviour and offline meeting. Alarmingly, 100% of children aged 13 and upwards have been exposed to sexual harassment online. Every single respondent. Although we cannot prevent this, we need to urgently equip our children with the skills to understand, protect themselves and let them know how to escalate it to a trusted teacher, parent or counsellor.
Growing access to digital platforms and devices is essential to help future proof our children for a rapidly changing world. But unfettered access can be dangerous if it is not met with an equal emphasis on digital Intelligence skills.
As parents and teachers, we may lack these skills because our values, morals and ethics were not shaped in the digital era. We may feel powerless to help, misunderstand the platforms and implications and because they change so fast, it’s a challenge to keep up.
Digital literacy and digital access needs to be met with strong digital intelligence training and development, to ensure our kids understand the risks, can make the most of the opportunities and become bona fide digital warriors.
Media and marketing pioneer Josephine Buys, who is the former and founding CEO of Interactive Advertising Bureau of South Africa, is now the CEO for The Publisher Research Council. Buys’ diverse career has placed her at the forefront of embracing media in a variety of industries [and platforms], from publishing and entertainment, to agencies and the public sector. Her experience spans sales, marketing, brand development and e-commerce. In each instance of her career she has set herself apart with her strategic intuition and infectious energy, helping organisations to affect real and lasting change in the marketing and advertising sector. @jozib_sa
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