The impact of technology on our society and economy is hard to calculate, but it is growing rapidly. According to some studies, around 90% of the global population will be connected to the internet by 2030, and with the internet of things developing at a rapid pace, there will be a gradual merging of the digital and physical worlds, and our children will bear the brunt of this change.
Children are accessing digital technologies at ever-younger ages and for longer than ever. Between televisions, computers, laptops and mobiles, it is possible to spend several hours a day in front of screens, and this can have a significant impact on their wellbeing and health. That is why forward-thinking schools, including the international school sector, which attempts to provide holistic education for students of all nationalities, are increasingly focused on teaching their students essential digital skills.
The digital world is vast and full of possibilities, but it also can potentially expose children to harmful influences such as cyberbullying, inappropriate content, data theft and other scams. The problem for parents and children is that the digital world changes so quickly that policies designed to protect them can quickly become out of date.
This problem is exacerbated by the fact that children interact with technology in a different way to adults, and this digital gap can make it hard for adults to fully grasp the risks that children could be exposed to online. Some adults, therefore, feel unable to properly advise children on the safe and responsible use of online technology.
The solution is to focus on teaching our children important digital skills in order to build up their digital intelligence. This refers to the collection of social, emotional and cognitive skills that will equip them to deal with the challenges of the online environment:
- Identity: This is the ability to properly create and manage your online reputation and identity, being aware of your online persona and how to manage its short and long-term impact.
- Use: This refers to the skill involved in using digital devices and media in a healthy way, including learning to control online habits to achieve a healthy online and offline balance.
- Safety: Digital safety means being aware of and able to counter the risk of being exposed to online psychological threats and inappropriate materials.
- Security: This involves understanding the various types of cyber threats including hacking, scams and malware and how to use the right security tools to keep your data safe.
- Communication: Digital communication involves being able to communicate and collaborate with others through digital media and to communicate in an empathetic and ethical way online.
- Rights: It is important to both understand and uphold certain principles related to the digital world, including the right to privacy, freedom of speech and protection from hate speech.
By teaching our children these important skills and setting them in the context of important values such as respect, empathy and prudence, we can ensure that they have the ability to explore the digital world in safety and grow into balanced adults.