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What is Digital Literacy?

Definition: What is digital literacy?

Digital literacy refers to the ability to use technology effectively to be able to communicate, live, work, and thrive in a digital society. Much like how reading and writing are essential skills to navigate general life, digital literacy is becoming an ever-growing necessity in our tech-enabled world. Within the purview of this term are topics of information and media literacy, cyber safety, digital footprints, and communication.

Information and media literacy is the ability to access information on the internet and assess the website’s credibility accurately. Read our additional article on media literacy here.

Cyber safety refers to everything that falls under protecting oneself online, from password protection to antivirus safeguarding to learning the skills to identify phishing attacks.

Digital footprint is the term used for all the information a person leaves online, from their social media profiles to their browsing history.

Communication skills in the digital literacy context means having the right capabilities to communicate safely and appropriately with their recipient, which could be in both personal and professional environments.

Why is digital literacy important?

As the pandemic forced millions of people around the world to make adjustments to lockdown life, it has also created more reliance on technology to connect us through distance. It has made it even clearer that vulnerable groups such as children, elders, and the less-fortunate individuals with lacking digital literacy suffer the most.

With children, switching to home-based learning meant exponentially more screen time, which in return saw the rise of cyberbullying and grooming. The elderly, who’ve had little exposure to technology throughout most of their lives, have become more vulnerable to online scams and phishing attacks because they aren’t able to critically differentiate between real and fake content. The most affected group of all is the less fortunate population who have been left behind due to the digital divide. They are families and individuals who cannot afford one or multiple devices and ready access to the internet, thus their little exposure to the digital world means less education around it as well. They are not only prone to all types of cyber safety risks, they also miss out on a lot of opportunities and education that is available online.

Examples of how digital literacy impacts us

The impact of digital literacy is far-reaching; giving and receiving education in this subject matter affects everyone at different stages of their lives. Let’s look at some examples below on how information and media literacy, cyber safety, digital footprints, and communication affects people.

  1. A young person is newly registered to vote, and is researching the views of the various political parties for the upcoming election. With an abundance of opinion sites, news reports, and social media comments, they are unable to differentiate between credible sources and false sites paid to distribute misinformation. Without a better grasp of information and media literacy, this person may be easily swayed to believe the opinions of biased sites rather than coming to their own conclusions.

  2. A 5th grade student has just received her first smartphone, in which her parents have locked with parental controls. She, like all her classmates, loves playing Roblox - a popular building game that lets her creatively explore new worlds. Because the app lets other users chat to her, one day she’s confronted by a stranger who starts asking her where she lives and what school she goes to. With a strong command of cyber safety, she immediately blocks the user and reports him without telling him any private information about herself.

  3. A recent college graduate has found himself with a great job interview lined up in the city, and has a high chance of securing the position. He goes home confidently after the final interview to wait for the offer to come through, expecting that he could start work next week. However, the next morning he receives an email that abruptly states that he has been rejected for the job, for the simple reason that his digital footprint is not appropriate for the company. A quick online search reveals that his college partying days have come to haunt him - images of him drinking at parties, videos of him streaking across the school yard, and hateful comments towards his teachers and peers are plastered all over the internet.

  4. A middle aged mother of three has been at the same office job for the past twenty years. Her role as the warehouse manager means she’s usually in the office talking to her staff and managing them in person. Because of the pandemic, she had to work from home and rely on the computer much more for communication with her team and the warehouse staff. As she’s not used to sending emails and communicating seamlessly online, she sent the wrong information of a large order to the warehouse team and lost a contract because of it.

In Singapore, the government plays an active role in a family’s digital readiness. The IMDA’s “Digital Readiness efforts aim to equip our citizens to use technology actively, responsibly and confidently.” Their programmes teach digital literacy skills and tech knowledge to individuals, schools, and communities to help the country get closer to the Smart Nation vision, where we function as a digital society with a digital economy and digital government.

Digital Literacy Activities

Here are some activities and tips you can do to engage in digital literacy education:

Get Involved

Are you part of a school looking to teach digital literacy in class? Talk to us!

Are you part of an organization looking to promote digital literacy with your employees, or activate it as part of your CSR campaign? Talk to us!



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