What is digital literacy?

Digital literacy is part of media literacy. They're both included in the idea of "information literacy," which is the ability to effectively find, identify, evaluate, and use information. Digital literacy specifically applies to media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and other nontraditional sources. Just as media literacy includes the ability to identify media and its messages and create media responsibly, digital literacy includes both nuts-and-bolts skills and ethical obligations.

Kids today are using the immense power of digital media to explore, connect, create, and learn in ways never before imagined. These activities offer both awesome opportunities and potential pitfalls. And kids' digital lives don't stop at the school gates, either. The spillover can result in cyberbullying, digital cheating, and safety and security concerns. That's why digital literacy is a uniquely important part of media literacy.

Here are some key digital-literacy skills kids can learn at home and at school:

  • Searching effectively. From researching a school report to watching the latest music video, kids need to learn how to evaluate the quality, credibility, and validity of media and to give proper credit to the source. (Learn responsible search strategies.)
  • Protecting their and others' private information online. With so many ways to share information, kids need to learn internet safety basics, such as creating strong passwords, using privacy settings, and respecting their friends' privacy.
  • Giving proper credit when using other people's work. In a world where anything can be copied, pasted, and even claimed as one's own, it's critical that kids learn to correctly cite sources.
  • Understanding digital footprints. What makes digital media so cool -- the ability to interact -- also creates tiny tracks across the web. Kids need to know that whenever they create a profile, post something, or comment on something, they're creating a composite profile potentially viewable by others.
  • Respecting each other's ideas and opinions. To be digitally literate, kids must understand that what makes the web an amazing place is that for this vast virtual world to function properly, we must all be good digital citizens.
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