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Tips and Tricks for Building Digital Literacy Confidence and Connections


Lara Vlach, ChildReach and Summer Burton, Literacy Link South Central explore digital literacy and the important of developing skills across generations

Literacy - in all its forms - is a key developmental skill that we all use every day, in ways we don’t often think about. Whether it’s reading a story to your child, following the self-checkout line instructions, writing a report at work, or checking out a friend’s social media account, all of these routine tasks require different aspects of literacy. In fact, literacy is more than the basics we learn as toddlers and preschoolers, it’s actually about how we communicate as a society.
And now, more than ever, how we communicate and the  literacy skills we need are expected to be adapted for digital mediums. This change requires abilities and confidence for people of all ages.
Summer Burton from Literacy Link South Central explains, “Today’s children are growing up in a world where the use of technology is everywhere and for many kids, its use is second nature to them. Their natural curiosity and innate understanding of how things work, helps enable this easy adoption. Older generations however, often feel left out and very cautious about the use of technology. They may not have the comfort level and confidence that children do when it comes to technology. But when they think about the purpose of their learning, they are motivated to learn and develop skills.”
So it’s clear that while digital literacy is important for everyone, individuals are often starting at different levels when building their skills like: how to use specific technology types, understanding what resources to trust, navigating specific needs like online banking or the importance of privacy.
Skills like these build confidence, create inclusivity, increase access to information, strengthen connectivity with friends and family, and are outlets for entertainment, education and creativity – so when people of all ages develop their digital literacy skills,  these benefits emerge in spades.
With all of this opportunity available in digital formats, it can be hard to know how much is too much when it comes to screen time. How do we balance the importance of learning skills and taking advantage of information, education and social connection while not developing an unhealthy relationship with technology?
Lara Vlach from ChildReach tells us that it is possible to navigate this question and it doesn’t have to be a challenge each time someone uses a device. She says, “understanding what your devices have to offer is key to modeling and talking about healthy screen use.” Screens and media are multi-purpose tools that can be used for entertainment, learning, working, connections, and creation.” 
So, the goal is not to eliminate screen time; instead it’s to focus on developing healthy interactions and boundaries. Some tips for parents and caregivers include:
  1. Joining your children in screen time and interacting with the programming together
  2. Talking about what’s happening on the device and what you’re learning, including pausing a program when something sparks an interest in your child
  3. Using screens as the primary activity (rather than a supplementary distraction) and making a purposeful choice to turn off the screen when the activity is done
These tips translate to how adults can be mindful of their digital interactions and boundaries as well, whether they are just building their digital literacy skills or are long-time technology enthusiasts. Because the digital literacy skills we build can be used in many ways in our face to face interactions, our connection to each other only grows when we can effectively communicate with each other, whether it’s over the phone, via a video, through social media or an in-person conversation.

Ultimately our relationships, including across generations, can be enhanced with digital tools; when we use them in a healthy way, we’re all more connected.