Since its creation, the Internet has been regarded as a world of opportunities. Whereas it gives access to information, knowledge, and ideas, and contributes to faster communication and new business models, online engagement can also result in negative consequences that must be addressed. These include cyberbullying, self-harm, sexting, fake news, harmful or disturbing content, and threats to privacy, to name just a few. In recent years, debates on the psychological impacts of the Internet, including addiction and overexposure to technology, have also gained in momentum. More broadly, the Internet and related emerging technologies have a huge impact on our social relations, security and safety, human rights and freedoms, economy and jobs, culture, and education. In spite of this, both children and their educators still lack awareness, skills, and knowledge to understand and address these challenges.
Digital literacy is often used as a synonym for digital/technical skills and competences (such as how to use tools and services). However, comprehension of digital literacy should go beyond mere information and communication technology (ICT) skills. It should focus on a critical assessment of the impact that digital technology has on overall personal development, particularly of digital natives who should set the norms defining competent and responsible digital citizens. In addition to ICT competences, we have recognised three other pillars as key components of digital literacy: smart use, nurturing values, and an understanding of the digital age.
We perceive smart use as responsible and safe use of the Internet. Nurturing values encompass critical thinking and personal rights and responsibilities in the digital context, while understanding relates to implications of societal, economic, and future technical concepts and developments in the digital age.
Since the social implications of emerging digital technologies are inevitable, a systematic approach to education, both formal and informal, and the role of educators in addressing these challenges is vital. Once the educators become fully aware of ever-emerging digital technologies and their impact, only then will they be able to effectively convey the knowledge of these issues to generations of digital natives and help them become competent and responsible digital citizens. Building the capacity of educators to achieve these goals is the responsibility of society and as such should be treated as a high priority.
Given DiploFoundation’s experience and our long-term commitment to education and training, we recognise the importance of developing the capacity of educators to understand the digital environment as a prerequisite for devising effective educational strategies for addressing the challenges of the information age.
Therefore, we have assumed an active role in this process as an educational organisation, and we invite other relevant institutions and organisations and the private sectorto join us in this endeavour.
As a first step, we have looked into relevant studies and data related to challenges of digital age for children. We have reviewed how other institutions and researchers view and define digital literacy. Building on many years of experience with analysing and teaching about digital space and societal challenges, we have suggested a broader definition of digital literacy, and outlined several recommendations related to the role of educators in this regard. Our findings are available in the policy brief Digital literacy for digital natives: The role of educators in shaping competent and responsible digital citizens. We invite you to share reflections and further ideas related to digital literacy and the role of educators.