Digital technology is an amazing thing, but not without its dangers. Which is why we need digital literacy.
Digital literacy provides a means to see through technology for what it is.
Look at it this way, you’ve traveled to a new city. It could be Chicago, New York, or even somewhere a little less glamorous, like Dallas, TX. These new cities can be filled with amazing things to see, terrifying in scale, or both.
And they’re not without their dangers either.
As you walk down a crowded street there’s a man inviting you to play a game.
“It’s easy, just watch the ball,” he says as he places a ball under one of three cups. He proceeds to move the cups. You follow the cup you know has the ball. He moves the cups around but not too fast that you lose sight of the right cup. When he’s finished, he lifts it to reveal that, indeed, the ball is still under the right cup.
“Want to play?” He asks. “You win, you get double your money back.”
To play, you need to pay five bucks.
You hand over your five-dollar bill, he pockets it and places the ball under a cup.
The cups move a little faster this time. Not too fast though.
You follow the cup until he stops.
You point to the right cup.
He lifts it to reveal there’s nothing there.
Seeing Through the Con
It’s a standard street con. The method behind it has been modified many times to use different elements for different situations.
You could say it’s a magic trick, but magicians do this to entertain, not take your money.
On the internet, there are many cons. Some of which are blatantly obvious. Has anyone gotten an email from a deposed prince of a foreign nation?
Others are a little cleverer. I once got a bill in my inbox claiming I’ve purchased an expensive program. Of course, I didn’t. But I wanted to make sure my bank account wasn’t hacked. So I check my bank account and no money is gone. This is good.
I sigh in relief and go back to the email.
There’s a convenient link at the bottom to confirm the billing information.
I deleted the email right then and there.
And then there are the cons that don’t involve money at all. These are the more nefarious ones as they want you to believe something that’s not true. Or take information from you.
Digital literacy is a means to see through the cons out there on the internet and protect yourself. It’s a field of instruction that’s growing. But not enough people are aware of it yet.
In response to some inauthentic profiles and growing concerns with protecting subscriber data, Facebook has launched their Digital Literacy Library. This helpful online repository is full of lessons, activities, and articles to help subscribers become more digitally literate. The Facebook Digital Literacy Library, however, can’t teach you how to detect CRAP.
This isn’t to say Facebook’s Digital Literacy Library IS crap. It’s a useful tool. And it’s a good place to start. But it’s lacking information on discerning fake news from real news and more.
For that, you’d need a comprehensive curriculum.
In 2010, Diana Graber taught her first digital citizenship class.
The school had just witnessed its first ever incident of cyberbullying. Graber, having earned a Masters in Media Psychology and Social Change, offered her academic knowledge to prevent similar incidents from happening again. The goal was to teach students the life skills needed to be wise and competent digital citizens.
And since the subject matter involved technology, Graber brought in technology to help teach the concepts to her students.
It began as one class once a week class for only the 6th grade. The class grew in popularity and became a full three-year curriculum for middle school students.
The coursework begins with a foundation of understanding digital citizenship. Upon that foundation, students learn about cyberbullying, sexting, researching, and of course CRAP.
CRAP is the acronym used to teach students how to tell if an article or post is fake news.
Is it Credible?
Is the source Reputable?
Who’s the Author?
And what’s the Purpose of their Point-of-View?
Now, Graber admits with a smile, students look forward to the class where they get to learn about CRAP.
Students have also expressed a greater interest in this class over other subjects. One went as far as to say “Why do we have algebra five times a week and only come here once? We’re going to use this way more than algebra!”
For students, and parents, who attend a school where Cyber Civics curriculum isn’t taught, there is a homeschool option available. If there’s just not enough time in the school day to cover the entire curriculum, Cyber Civics offers a condensed version of their Level 1 material.
There is also a family option. This curriculum isn’t restricted to students who attend a school where Cyber Civics is taught. It’s available on their website for download. Any family can order it to learn more about digital citizenship within their own home.
Diana Graber also has written a book full of information gleaned from her first eight years building and teaching Cyber Civics; Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology.
The book details the fundamentals of Cyber Civics, lessons to do at home, and more information. It’s a great supplemental resource or introductory course to Cyber Civics.
Why Become Digitally Literate?
Anyone and everyone who goes online is a digital citizen. To survive in a digital world, and to not let it control us, we need to become digitally literate.
And much like Chicago, New York, or even Dallas, the internet is a place with both people who want to help and people who want to hurt.
Everywhere we go on the internet there is someone who can see what we’ve been doing. Some may think what they’re doing won’t matter to the larger crowd. But what if someone decides to look at the digital footprints you’ve been leaving?
A scammer would know where to look.
And much like the street con, these scammers can either get your information out of you directly or by seeing where you’ve been. Once they have it, then they can use it against you.
Then there are those who aren’t scammers but are trying to gather people to their cause. It may be a noble cause, it may not be. Or worse, they’re trying to spread false information.
With a program like Cyber Civics, you’ll at least be able to discern if there’s CRAP.
Why is it Important?
Digital literacy programs aren’t meant to restrict students from getting on their phones. Instead, it’s meant to equip them to handle the technology properly.
Kids today spend up to 11 hours per day on their phone. That’s half of the day just on their smartphones. That’s a lot of time being exposed to a whole world of information.
It’s not easy to monitor.
Kids are also very perceptive and can pick up things quickly, especially when they’re interested in it. Smartphones will hold sway over kids, even adults, for a long time. Wouldn’t it be better to build a mindset that prevents the technology from controlling them?
Facebook’s Digital Literacy Library, though not fully comprehensive, is a good place to start. For the good stuff, check out Cyber Civics. They even have a few free lessons you can work through.
In the meantime, take a look at the best internet and cable packages. You can at least save a few bucks that way and not take a loss to a street con.