4 Digital Literacy Skills for Parents to Teach Kids

Oct 30, 2023
Digital literacy skills Edmentum article

Digital learning, in its various forms, is becoming a standard part of the classroom teaching and learning experience. Blended learning, virtual schools, supplemental online courses, and credit recovery—the options are numerous, but they all have the same goal: to strengthen a student’s learning experience and improve educational outcomes.

As technology becomes more integral to your child’s education, it’s important to understand the benefits and potential drawbacks. Discussing digital literacy with your child is a great way to spark a conversation about online safety. It also creates opportunities to set expectations surrounding tech use. As a parent, it’s largely up to you to shape how your child uses the web. Luckily, we have the tips you need to get started on the right foot.

Four Digital Literacy Tips for Parents & Kids

Challenges can arise for parents as children grow old enough for screen time, online content, and general online safety to become concerns. Teaching your child to successfully manage these situations is key to helping them take full advantage of the technology at their fingertips and become good digital citizens. To help, we’ve compiled some of our favorite basic digital literacy tips for parents.

1. Digital literacy is based on digital citizenship

When your child goes online, they enter into a whole new community with its own rules and norms. Becoming a proper digital citizen takes time, but with regular prompting and practice, your child will quickly demonstrate responsible technology use. Consistently remind your child to never share passwords, avoid strangers, use trustworthy information sources, be respectful to others on social networks and other forums, and always report any suspicious or mean behavior.

These reminders may seem like basic knowledge to parents, but remember that it’s new information for children just beginning to use technology. Having conversations like this before your child enters the digital world helps establish ground rules and set expectations.

Defining digital literacy

So, what is digital citizenship? There are lots of ways to define this term, but our favorite comes from the Digital Citizenship Institute:

Digital citizenship is the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use.

To better understand the complexity of digital citizenship and the issues of technology use, abuse, and misuse, the institute’s founder, Mike Ribble, has also identified nine elements that together make up digital citizenship:

  1. Digital Access: work toward full and equal access to technology for everyone
  2. Digital Commerce: recognize ethical and legal issues around conducting business online, and engage in Internet transactions responsibly
  3. Digital Communication: utilize digital communication options appropriately and respectfully
  4. Digital Literacy: learn and teach others how to effectively learn with technology in a digital society
  5. Digital Etiquette: establish and respect online standards of conduct
  6. Digital Law: abide by traditional societal laws and extend ethical behavior to digital environments
  7. Digital Rights & Responsibilities: define basic rights afforded to everyone in the digital world
  8. Digital Health & Wellness: Take precautions against the inherent physical and psychological risks of technology use
  9. Digital Security (self-protection): protect personal information from digital corruption
Why is digital citizenship important?

Learning skills to use the Internet appropriately and responsibly develops a foundation of social norms to provide digital learners with tools to understand how to act in positive ways on any online platform. These skills will help students communicate, collaborate, and conduct themselves appropriately in the online environments where we all spend an ever-increasing amount of time. As a result, students will be better equipped and prepared to greet the many opportunities, as well as challenges, that the connected life brings. So, dive in and get started guiding your students through this digital future! Here are three ideas and resources to help you get started:

  • Get your students thinking about responsible online behavior by developing a digital citizenship pledge as a class! Talk about appropriate behaviors, and agree upon a code of conduct that everyone will follow. has developed this great example to use as a starting point.
  • Check out an online resource! There are many great programs and apps to give your students hands-on practice with digital literacy skills.
  • Decorate your classroom! An Ethical Island created this digital citizenship printable infographic as a great visual reminder of digital best practices for your students.
2. Practice media monitoring

Depending on what is accessible, a typical day for most children includes a mix of TV, Internet, social media, video games, and cellphone use. This is a lot of media exposure, especially since children are more susceptible to influences than adults. Make sure you know the type of content your child is viewing regularly, and determine if it is age-appropriate.

Evaluate media as a family. Give each family member an opportunity to share their values and discuss whether certain entertainment sources align with them. It also paves the way for deeper family discussions on how media relates to real-life situations, which will help your child develop a broader understanding of the world.

3. Discuss internet safety and online privacy

The Internet is a great resource for research, but easy access to data means it can be a gateway for others to get hold of your child’s information. Clearly communicate to your child what type of information is and is not okay to share online.

This part of digital literacy can go deeper than just making sure your child doesn’t share personal information; elaborate on what type of content is appropriate to share and post on social networks. Remind your child that the second something is posted online, they lose control over it. Anyone else can easily save or share the post (whether it’s an article, a piece of personal writing, photos, videos, or anything else), and your child may never know.

Take advantage of Internet privacy settings. Devices, browsers, and online programs (including social networks) offer options to limit the audience of posts, use nicknames or usernames, or turn off location settings. These small changes can make a world of difference to your child’s safety online.

4. Promote clear communication

Sometimes, the meaning of a message can be misinterpreted because of how it’s delivered. This is especially true when it comes to communication online, which doesn’t have the added context of face-to-face interaction.

Help your child understand that when something is posted online, the people who see it won’t necessarily interpret it in the way that they expect. For example, your child may post a Facebook status update intended to be lighthearted and funny, but it could hurt the feelings of a classmate who reads it.

Emphasize the importance of being thoughtful about any messages posted online, and coach your child to address issues that arise from ambiguous online communication in person to avoid more confusion and escalation.

Remind your child to always think before typing; this is a key piece of digital literacy. Encourage them to analyze the different ways their writing could be interpreted and be respectful at all times. The Internet should be an entertaining, informative, and safe community for everyone.

Digital Literacy Skills Take Practice

Building digital literacy skills and becoming a good digital citizen are certainly parts of the learning process. Digital literacy is also a moving target as technology and online communities continue to evolve. The key is to always keep respect at the forefront and treat online interactions like any other human interaction. With intentional conversations and regular reminders, you can help your child start building these skills today!

Technology has had revolutionary impacts on the classroom and daily life in general. By learning and applying strong digital citizenship skills, we can continue to make meaningful strides forward for everyone.

Looking for more tips? Visit Common Sense Media for helpful documents to promote safe, responsible, and effective technology use in your household. 

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