What do you think is the appropriate age for a child to own a personal cellphone?
According to a global survey conducted by Google earlier this year, children in Singapore are some of the youngest in the world to receive their first ever mobile device at the average age of 8 (compared to the global average age of 10). In today’s Information Age, there is no doubt that we are exposing our children to the digital world from young.
What is digital literacy?
MOE recently announced the introduction of a coding course for primary school students, illustrating the importance of digitalisation and how it is due to become an integral part of our children’s lives. Young members of Generation Z may be adept at utilising technological advancements and navigating through the digital world, but are they doing so in an effective and safe manner?
Digital literacy goes beyond the technological know-how and the exposure to the digital world. It is about practicing good digital citizenship, which encompasses the following aspects-
- The appropriate use of online resources
- Keeping yourself safe online
- Being responsible for your online actions
Appropriate use of digital/online resources
We can find a whole wealth of information on the Internet, available and accessible to everyone. This has drastically transformed the way we learn. Do you recall flipping through bulky books and encyclopedias to learn about something decades ago as a child? Well, children nowadays are conducting their own searches (in a matter of seconds!) on the Internet to better comprehend concepts taught in schools, conduct research for school projects or simply to quell their curiosity.
☑ Online falsehoods and misinformation
However, we cannot assume that everything found online is true and accurate (no matter how convincing and well-written an article appears to be). The online world is largely unregulated and unfiltered. How, then, can your child discern the real stuff among falsehoods? There have been measures to curb the types of content people are putting out, such as the POFMA (a.k.a fake news law) that recently came into effect. Still, misleading or false information will remain online as long as it does not get reported and removed by site administrators.
Here are some tips for your child to evaluate source credibility so as to conduct more effective searches online:
- Check the address of the website. Websites by educational institutions, government organisations and major news outlets tend to be up-to-date on matters and are more reliable sources of information.
- Look at the sources cited in the article. Information presented in the article should be backed up by credible sources such as research articles and official websites.
- See when the article was written. Websites that have not been updated and articles that are written years back should be avoided as information may no longer be relevant and applicable.
- Always cross-check information from different sources.
Side note: If your child is always looking on the Internet for answers to homework questions, why not give our Engage feature a try? Through one-to-one live chat sessions, our pool of qualified mentors is available round the clock to provide answers and explanations to students’ questions. There is no need to search blindly for solutions online and learning becomes much more engaging and efficient!
The social media industry is booming right now. If your child is already owning a smart phone, chances are that he or she is aware or in tuned of at least one of these social media platforms (to name a few): Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok. In addition to enabling your child to stay connected to friends and family members, they can be sources of entertainment and learning tools. Educational videos, documentaries and snippets of news posted by government and news agencies are useful in gaining general affairs knowledge.
Speaking of which, have you checked out our Facebook and Instagram pages yet?
☑ Negative influence and toxic content on social media
On the flip-side, social media can inadvertently expose your child to negative and unhealthy contents of varying degrees. Unhealthy contents— such as the romanticising of depression, self-harm, self-loathing or even suicide— can be crafted to appeal to the angst of adolescents or to vulnerable children.
In other situations, carefully curated feeds can (unintentionally or not) foster materialism and body image issues when children make comparisons to the seemingly perfect lives of “influencers“. Furthermore, there is also the danger of social media addiction when an individual has established an online presence and his or her life starts revolving around garnering followers and “likes“.
What can you do as a parent?
- Understand how these social media platforms function. In doing so, it will be easier for you to enter the mindset of your child and understand the influence from exposure to certain information and imagery found online.
- Build up confidence and self-esteem in your child. Encourage your child to pick up something that interests him or her and emphasise on achievements. Let your child understand that one’s self-worth is neither determined by others nor validated by how popular one is.
☑ Privacy concerns
The Internet provides sharing platforms for an individual to post just about anything from personal opinions to updates on his or her daily life. Under default privacy settings, these are accessible to the public (to strangers, essentially). Very often, children, and even some adolescents, have yet to develop an acute sense of judgment. Hence, they may not fully comprehend the implications and the dangers lurking behind sharing things online. Over-sharing, especially of contentious or provocative topics, can attract the attention of the wrong people, result in a public backlash or cause the child to be subjected to cyber-bullying.
What can you do as a parent?
- Educate your child and share cases of phishing and download scams.
- If your child is active on social media, always remind your child to have second thoughts before clicking on the “post” button and consider whether the content may be too personal or sensitive to be shared online.
- Have your child set strong passwords for his or her online accounts. Simple passwords (especially when used on multiple platforms) pose the risk of accounts being hacked into, divulging personal information.
Bearing responsibility for your digital footprint
Our personal opinions and individual perspectives are an entitlement. However, when we share our thoughts online, being respectful is a must. Sure, you can simply delete a controversial photo or comment posted online, but will it ever be completely erased? When such content is shared across the network, it becomes a part of one’s permanent digital footprint and contributes to a negative online reputation.
You certainly would not want a future potential employer to come across some unsightly photos or comments posted by your child from years back, would you?
☑ Be respectful and kind
There are online platforms, forums and discussion boards where individuals can make comments or start a discussion thread. Hiding behind the mask of anonymity and bearing no consequence (seemingly), they can make thoughtless and insensitive remarks towards others. Children and youngsters need to understand that such actions are termed as cyber-bullying and it can have extremely damaging effects towards the bullied party and even to the society.
What can you do as a parent?
- Be a role model. As parents, we are actually the biggest influence in how our children behave so start practising kindness and empathy.
- Let your child understand the importance of standing up for others. If we witness or encounter cases of cyber-bullying, we should report them to the authorities or to teachers.
- Teach empathy. Before making a comment on something or someone, we ought to consider how we would feel if we receive the same comment from someone else.
Exposing your child to the online world may be akin to opening up Pandora’s box. However, when equipped with the relevant skills and knowledge, navigating through the Internet can still be a positive and rewarding experience!
Sources: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]
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