Digital literacy can safeguard children online

online kid

We need to ensure that children are protected as they navigate the digital landscape safely and responsibly.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

In this era, children can skillfully operate smartphones and tablets even before they can walk, proving that they are growing up in a digital environment unlike any other.

Indeed, with each passing year, technology's impact on their life grows more powerful, and as parents and educators, we must face a harsh reality: the internet world is both their playground and battleground.

Admittedly, the Internet is an extraordinary resource, offering children numerous opportunities for learning, communication, and creativity.

However, it has also resulted in a worrying rise in the internet threats that our children experience daily, including cyberbullying, harassment, the spread of misinformation, and concerns regarding privacy.

Recent research and case studies give insight into the prevalence and gravity of these issues.

According to Disrupting Harm in Kenya, a collaborative study conducted by the End Child Prostitution and Trafficking Network, Interpol, and Unicef, 67% of Kenyan children aged 12 to 17 use the Internet and are exposed to various types of online abuse and exploitation.

Also, privacy violations and online predator threats exist since children unwittingly divulge personal information.

There is an urgent need to implement digital literacy education into the school curriculum to provide students with information and abilities to detect and respond to these threats appropriately.

Digital literacy is the ability to utilise information and communication technology effectively to access, analyse, produce, and convey information in our interconnected world, is essential for the technologically driven future our children will inherit.

Schools play a critical role in shaping students’ digital literacy, well beyond the scope of parental responsibility, since children spend most of their time in these institutions.

They provide established spaces for complete digital literacy education, standardised training that equips pupils with the information and abilities for safe internet navigation.

Children who acquire such literacy are not only better positioned for success, but also well-prepared to manage complexity of the online landscape. It provides them with the skills and knowledge to effectively utilise technology, analyse digital content, and protect themselves from threats.

There are various approaches to realise digital literacy. Technology-enhanced learning is one, which entails integrating digital tools and educational software into the classroom to educate students on how to utilise technology successfully.

Internet safety programmes also teach pupils about potential risks associated with the Internet and ethical online conduct.

Coding and computer science programs teach coding languages and problem-solving abilities, which help students gain a better knowledge of technology.

Legislation: The government is a key player in promoting child online safety.

- The author is the Director, Sustainable Business, Social Impact & the Foundations, Safaricom PLC