Being a parent in the digital age is tough. For a start, most parents grew up with very different kind of media in their lives, so they may not know what their children are being exposed to today. Then, parents need to learn how to balance educating their children to be tech-savvy with setting boundaries so they don’t fall into addiction.
One thing that most parenting guides mention is the need to talk to your children about digital media use. The idea is that by talking to children about digital media use, you bring to light the various issues they will face when interacting with digital media: News accuracy, media influence, privacy, intellectual property rights, and so on. Eventually, the goal is to make them conscious about these issues, and give them the tools they need to independently navigate through them while enjoying the benefits that digital media offers.
However, one thing many of these guides fail to address is the question of ‘how’. Particularly, how should parents go about approaching topics of digital media literacy with their child? If you are struggling with this question yourself, maybe it’s time to take a look at these tips below.
Make it relatable
Approaching the topic is a little bit like how one would approach the subject of the birds and the bees. Rather than jumping into it randomly, parents should find openings to dive into the topic in a way that the child can relate to.
For example, wait until they ask you questions. Perhaps they may have received a friend request on a social media site from someone they don’t know. Use this chance to talk to them about privacy and internet safety.
Another way is to create such opportunities yourself. For instance, after taking some selfies with your child, you can ask them if they think it’s alright to post the selfie on Facebook. Probe them to think further about the implications of such actions, and how they can protect themselves online.
Prompt them to question media
Young readers may not realise that not everything they see on the internet – or the news, even – are hundred per cent true. Marketing media often use persuasive tools to put their products in a good light, and children tend to fall for them. Sensationalist news outlets also exaggerate the facts to attract attention and boost readership.
A good question to ask your kids is ‘What is this article/video/post for?’ This way, they can determine if the intention is to advertise, argue a point, or inform. From there, you can introduce to them the notion of biases, and guide them to realise that they should not be taking everything they see at face value.
Teach them to fact-check
Once children realise that what they see online is not necessarily true, you can teach them to fact-check. Develop their habit of fact-checking by regularly asking them questions like ‘How do you know?’
By teaching them to take a look at various sources of information on the same topic, they will be able to get the hang of how to cross-refer sources to ascertain the truth of the matter.
Keep up with the news
Besides talking about how their days went, families often talk about current affairs at the dinner table as well. Experts say that young children tend to trust news they hear from their parents, and that is to be expected.
This makes the responsibility of parents grow even heavier, as they become the gatekeepers of news for their children. That is why it is vital to keep up with accurate and objective news sources.
Parents can also use this chance to expose their children to varying perspectives and opinions about various issues. While seemingly not directly related to digital literacy, this develops their critical thinking, equipping them to approach varied materials with a critical frame of mind.
In children’s early years, parents are the first line of education when it comes to teaching children about digital literacy. But as children enter schools and spend a lot of time there, educators also play an increasing role in educating children in digital matters.
That is why you shouldn’t overlook the importance of having a digital literacy programme in your child’s school. Whether you are looking for an international kindergarten programme for your child, or a primary school in Singapore, the right international school in Singapore for your child is one that has a structured programme for imparting digital literacy skills to children.
It will help to do some research on the types of digital literacy programmes in place, and also take note of whether the school requires your child to have their own laptop or tablet.
Being aware of how schools are helping your child grow up to be a digital native will also help you tailor your efforts at home. Together, bringing up digitally-savvy children won’t seem like such a tricky task anymore!