You’ve heard us say that our kids are growing up in a digital world. Well, the past year has been like throwing our children into the ocean with very little swimming experience. They’ve been immersed in an online environment with which they’ve had no training for.
Iowa State University psychology professor, Douglas Gentile, hopes that this past year will be a catalyst for change with regards to digital literacy training. Dr. Gentile and his colleagues at the DQ Institute (a global think tank for digital literacy education) published a report that surveyed more than 145,000 children in 30 countries between 2017-2019 and found that 60% of 8-12 year old’s “were exposed to digital risks such as cyberbullying, gaming disorder, violent content and “sexual grooming” — defined by the U.S. Department of Justice as “a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child and the adults around a child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with her/him.”
It’s important to remember that these statistics were from the two years prior to the pandemic when digital access increased substantially due to online learning.
In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission regulates technology based on program ratings. However, in this digital age, kids are using streaming services with no ratings and no boundaries. Gentile recognizes the necessity of digital literacy skills not only for K-12 education, but for any organization where people are using technology.
During the summer of 2020, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey that revealed more than 71% of parents with children ages 12 and under, were concerned about their children spending too much time in front of screens. “Parents are in a tough position,” Gentile said. “Many of them were already struggling with how to manage kids’ media use before the school told them they should be on it more.”
For many states, media literacy and digital citizenship are not included in their educational state standards. Gentile is hopeful that parents and legislators will acknowledge the need to help children be safe and smart when they are online. “If we want to get out of the hole, we’re really going to need to talk about this in the Legislature,” he said, adding, “we don’t need it to be one more unfunded mandate. It shouldn’t be one more thing teachers are forced to do without giving the training they need to be able to do it well.”
Here at Neptune Navigate, we place digital literacy and digital citizenship training into the hands of parents, children, educators, athletes, and employees with the intention of helping them be smart and stay safe online.