Digital Literacy Skills For Kids (& Parents)

Author avatar

Brad Bartlett


Digital literacy

It’s no secret that technology is becoming increasingly present in our lives, and parents need to ensure their children have the digital literacy skills necessary to safely navigate this world.

Digital literacy encompasses a range of skills, from understanding online privacy settings to creating strong passwords and more. It is essential for kids to develop these skills as they grow up so they can use technology responsibly and protect themselves against cyber threats.

Parents are often unsure of how best to teach their children about digital literacy or even where to start with digital tools. That’s why we have created this resource guide; it provides practical advice on helping your child learn the basics of digital literacy while also giving you tips on how you can help them stay safe online.

We know that teaching your kids about digital skills can be daunting, but with the right resources, tools, and support, you can give them the confidence they need when using devices connected to the internet. This guide will provide an overview of some key topics, such as:

  • Online safety

  • Cyberbullying prevention

  • Understanding online privacy settings with digital technologies

  • Creating strong passwords with digital tools

  • How to recognize and report suspicious activity

In addition to learning about these topics, this guide will offer guidance on how you can help your child practice good digital habits. It’s essential for kids to learn the basics of digital literacy from a young age, so they can develop into confident, responsible digital citizens.

What Is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy is about knowing how to use digital technology safely and responsibly. Recent research points to a growing need to equip children with the skills necessary to use digital technologies safely and appropriately and recognize when they might be in danger online.

  • According to recent Pew Research Center surveys, nearly half (47%) of parents with children under 18 said their child spends too much time on digital devices.

  • A 2021 report found that almost three-quarters (72%) of 5-15-year-olds have access to a tablet device, while over half (56%) have access to their own smartphone devices.

  • UNICEF has reported that mobile phones are the most popular devices used by children to go online, with more than 80% of children worldwide having access to one in their homes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only further highlighted the need for digital literacy. Many children are now spending more time online than ever before, so knowing the dangers and how to stay safe with digital tools is essential.

The Risks of Unsafe Use of Digital Tools

We’ll be the first to admit that the digital age has created incredible opportunities for kids.

With access to communication technologies, children can explore new interests, find answers to their questions, and even create content of their own. And as educational resources evolve into a much more digital environment, children can now access tools to help them learn at home that previous generations could never imagine.

However, with all of this information and communication technologies come potential risks as well. There is growing concern about cyberbullying, online predators and scams, identity theft, and other malicious activities. That’s why it’s so important to equip kids with the digital skills they need to make smart decisions when using technology.

Risk 1: Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a growing problem, especially with the rise of social media. It often takes the form of hurtful comments or threats posted online or via text message and can have serious impacts on children’s mental health and well-being.

Teaching children about digital literacy can help them identify when they may be at risk of being targeted by cyberbullies.

For example, they can learn how to recognize inappropriate content or messages that could be from a bully and how to report them if necessary. They can also learn strategies for responding to cyberbullying, such as blocking or ignoring the bully, not retaliating, and seeking help from an adult or trusted friend.

Parents and educators need to talk openly with children about cyberbullying so that they understand the risks associated with it. According to StopBullying, one in five teens has experienced cyberbullying in some form. Additionally, research suggests that girls are more likely than boys to experience cyberbullying – which can result in decreased self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and other difficulties.

When children understand the warning signs and consequences of cyberbullying, they are more likely to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their peers when engaging in digital life.

Risk 2: Online Predators

Statistics show that 1 in 7 young people have been approached by a stranger online – often posing as someone they know or trust. This is why it’s so important to teach children digital literacy skills like understanding online privacy settings, creating strong passwords, and being aware of potential threats.

Parents should also talk with their children about the risks associated with speaking to strangers in the digital landscape – even if they seem friendly or harmless at first. Kids need to understand that online predators often pretend to be someone they’re not to gain a child’s trust and then exploit them.

Digital literacy allows children to understand and identify red flags and warning signs when communicating with someone online. They should be taught the importance of not sharing personal information such as passwords, addresses, phone numbers, or bank details unless they are absolutely sure that the person on the other end is who they say they are.

Risk 3: Identity Theft & Online Scams

The most common online crime is identity theft, where criminals gain access to personal information and use it for their own financial gain. And when combined with online scams – where criminals try to lure unsuspecting victims into providing them with money or other personal information – the results can be devastating.

To protect children from these risks, it’s essential to educate them about digital literacy tactics such as only giving out personal information when absolutely necessary, never clicking on suspicious links or attachments, and understanding how to spot online scams by looking for signs like misspellings or broken English in unexpected digital writing or other digital content.

Digital literacy also helps kids understand the importance of using strong passwords that are unique to each account, setting up two-factor authentication on their accounts, and regularly updating their security software.

Parents can also benefit by understanding the warning signs of online scams and identity theft so they can be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. Protecting children from these risks starts with educating them about digital literacy and providing them with the tools to make safe and responsible online decisions.

Risk 4: Misinformation

As artificial intelligence and bot-driven content become more prevalent, it’s becoming harder to tell what’s real and what isn’t. Fake news stories, doctored photos and videos, and conspiracy theories have all been used to manipulate public opinion through digital content.

And children, who are often unable to distinguish between real news and disinformation, are especially vulnerable to this risk. That’s why it’s so crucial for parents to teach their children digital literacy skills, like how to evaluate online sources and identify potential red flags.

More than half of Americans get their news from social media, and nearly two-thirds of adults have encountered false information while using the internet. The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that nearly 70% of people surveyed had seen fake news on social media – raising the risk of children being exposed to inaccurate information as the content is shared. You can see why digital literacy is so necessary!

Misinformation can include a variety of elements – from subtle biases within digital writing to outright lies – which is why kids need to be able to recognize the signs and understand how to filter out false information.

Digital literacy means children and parents can learn tactics such as:

  • Using multiple reliable sources when researching a topic

  • Reading articles with a critical eye and questioning assumptions or claims

  • Looking out for language that is purposefully inflammatory, sensationalistic, or emotionally charged

  • Gaining the digital skills to understand the difference between opinion and fact online.

By teaching children digital literacy skills, we can equip them to be more informed and discerning digital citizens. This will help them avoid the pitfalls of misinformation and make safe, responsible decisions online.

What Types of Media Should Digital Literacy Involve?

Our digital experience continues to expand, with technology impacting nearly every aspect of our lives. As a result, digital literacy should involve more than just the basics of online safety.

1. Social Media Platforms

Social media is a significant part of our lives, with the majority of teens and adults using it to communicate and share digital content.

Teaching kids to be aware of their presence online and how to gain the technical skills to use social media responsibly can help protect them from potential risks such as cyberbullying or identity theft. Knowing how to communicate information responsibly is critical for digital safety.

2. Mobile Devices & Apps

Mobile devices are becoming increasingly prevalent in our lives, with kids and adults alike using them for everything from gaming to shopping.

Digital literacy should include teaching kids how to use these devices responsibly, such as avoiding oversharing personal information or downloading apps from unknown sources.

3. Online Searches

Search engines are an essential part of the digital world – both in online learning and in the professional world. Understanding how to use these tools effectively is a key part of digital literacy.

Teaching kids how to craft effective search queries and evaluate the results will help ensure that they find accurate information online. Similarly, knowing what NOT to search for can help them avoid potentially harmful digital content.

4. Digital Citizenship

Digital citizenship is an important part of digital literacy, as it helps kids understand their roles and responsibilities in the online world. This includes understanding topics such as netiquette, copyright law, cyberbullying prevention, and more.

5. Digital Media Production

Digital media production involves creating content for websites, apps, or other platforms. Kids need to understand the basics of designing content that follows web standards and is accessible to all users and the legal implications of copyright and fair use.

6. Dark Designs

Digital literacy goes beyond knowing how to use technology – it includes having the digital skills to notice when content is taking advantage of your brain and emotions.

Dark design refers to digital media or engagement designed to manipulate users or influence their behavior. These can include “loot boxes” in video games or targeted ads on social media. Teaching kids to recognize the signs of dark designs can help them make informed decisions and protect themselves from potential scams or manipulation.

How To Create A Digital Literacy Learning Method At Home

As parents, it’s up to us to ensure our children are equipped with the digital skills they need to stay safe and make smart decisions online. Here are some tips for teaching digital literacy at home:

Start Early & Explain Often

It’s easy to forget that children are increasingly exposed to technology from a young age. Make sure you start talking about digital literacy early and often, even with babies and toddlers.

At the youngest age, children begin to learn who they can trust for accurate, trustworthy information that will keep them safe and happy. This means talking about online safety, privacy settings, and responsible behavior from the start. The faster children learn these digital skills, the better off they’ll be.

Set Expectations & Boundaries

It’s important to set expectations and boundaries for your child’s online behavior. Sit down with them and lay out what you expect from them in terms of digital literacy and usage.

Make sure they understand that their online actions reflect on them and their family. Explain that they should be responsible, accountable, and respectful with their online behavior – and the consequences that will follow if they don’t.

Model Good Digital Behavior

Setting expectations is only part of the equation – it’s important to model good digital behavior yourself as well.

Children learn best by example, so be sure to practice what you preach when it comes to your own online conduct. This includes being mindful about how you share personal information, being respectful to others online, and taking time away from screens.

Create Offline Time

It’s also important to give your child some unplugged time every day. Make sure they have activities that don’t involve screens, such as playing outdoors or reading a book. This will help them understand the value of taking a break from technology and enjoying other activities.

But don’t let those offline times pass without taking time to discuss digital literacy – digital literacy should be a family affair! Use these opportunities to talk about strategies for recognizing false information, understanding privacy settings, and staying safe online.

Allow Open & Safe Spaces for Discussion

Finally, it’s important to create open and safe spaces for your children to talk about their digital experiences. Encourage them to ask questions and provide help when needed. This will help build trust between you and your child, giving them the confidence to come to you with any issues they may face online.

Questions that can spur digital literacy conversations can include:

  • “What did you think about this article?”

  • “Why do you think these privacy settings exist on your phone?”

  • “Have you ever seen or interacted with something online that made you feel uncomfortable?”

  • “Did you ever feel unsafe online?”

These questions can allow kids to be open and honest with their digital experiences and allow you to provide advice on how to stay safe and make smart decisions online.

By taking a proactive approach to helping our children develop essential digital literacy skills, we can ensure they are well-equipped to navigate the world of technology safely and responsibly. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to help your children foster the digital literacy skills they need for the future.

Encourage Digital Literacy With Kidslox

Digital literacy is an essential skill in today’s tech-driven world, and it’s up to us to ensure our children are equipped with the knowledge and resources needed to stay safe online. By asking questions about their digital experiences, providing guidance and advice, and helping them develop basic digital literacy skills, you can help your children stay safe online while still enjoying the benefits of technology.

At Kidslox, we are committed to helping parents and guardians learn how to equip their children for success in the digital age. We believe that by providing access to the right tools and resources, we can help create a safer, more secure online environment for everyone. Our parental control app helps families foster an open dialogue about internet activities and create a safe, secure place for children to explore the world of technology.

Want to learn more? Discover the Kidslox app online, and see our full library of guides and resources to help you and your family engage online safely!