Digital education and safety in the virtual playground


[BLOG] Digital education and safety in the virtual playground

Digital education

A generation ago, IT and digital media were niche skills. Today, they are an essential skill for most careers and therefore children’s future prospects. Children, adolescents and families are engaging as digital citizens throughout the day but there is a necessity to bring education into the conversation, catching up with the frequently evolving digital sphere that we now live in: we must educate our children at home and at school on proper use of digital platforms, on the dangers online (including abuse, fraud and cyberbullying), and positively reinforce how they can command digital props to better their scenario.

Digital skills are an essential part of a comprehensive education framework. Educators and employers are asking what is your digital intelligence (DQ) so we must consider how to enable all children to receive an education in the digital sphere.

The challenge for educators is to move beyond thinking of IT as a tool, or “IT-enabled education platforms”. Instead, they need to think about how to nurture students’ ability and confidence to excel both online and offline in a world where digital media is ubiquitous.

But what is DQ?

Digital citizenship – The ability to use digital technology and media in safe, responsible and effective ways

Digital creativity (the most ignored in current syllabuses) – The ability to become a part of the digital ecosystem by co-creating new content and turning ideas into reality by using digital tools

Digital entrepreneurship – The ability to use digital media and technologies to solve global challenges or to create new opportunities

A child should start learning digital citizenship as early as possible, ideally when one starts actively using games, social media or any digital device. Children will not pick up all the skills they need. Some say these skills should be nurtured at home but due to the digital generation gap, with generation Z being the first to truly grow up in the era of smartphones and social media, neither parents nor teachers know how to adequately equip children with these skills.

Young children are all too often exposed to cyber risks such as technology addiction, cyberbullying and grooming. They can also absorb toxic behavioural norms that affect their ability to interact with others. And while most children encounter such challenges, the problematic exposure is amplified for vulnerable children, including those with mental health issues, special needs, minorities and the economically disadvantaged. They tend to not only be more frequently exposed to risk, but also face more severe outcomes. We need to try and safeguard children from these risks through education where possible.

virtual playground

Topics to teach:

Digital citizen identity: help individuals to build and manage a healthy identity online and offline with integrity

Screen time management: help individuals to manage their screen time, multitasking, and their engagement in online games and social media with self-control

Cyberbullying management: help individuals acquire the ability to detect situations of cyberbullying and handle them wisely

Cybersecurity management: help individuals acquire the ability to protect one’s data by creating strong passwords and to manage various cyberattacks

Privacy management: help individuals acquire the ability to handle with discretion all personal information shared online to protect one’s and others’ privacy

Critical thinking: help individuals acquire the ability to distinguish between true and false information, good and harmful content, and trustworthy and questionable contacts online

Digital footprints: help individuals acquire the ability to understand the nature of digital footprints and their real-life consequences and to manage them responsibly

Digital empathy: help individuals acquire the ability to show empathy towards one’s own and others’ needs and feelings online

We hope to encourage all educational institutions (schools and universities) to put more emphasis on giving children and individuals the skills to safeguard themselves whilst they are online, particularly as 4.1 billion of the world’s population will use the internet on a daily basis by 2020. We should also not forget that the conversation encouraging digital citizenship education can start at home and by encouraging leaders in our community to be forward-thinking.

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