Don’t leave parents out of digital literacy

parents_and_children_using_technology

We’ve got children covered with the upcoming ICT curriculum changes, and after school code clubs. Meanwhile, the Silver surfers have long been encouraged to get online so that they can spend their money.

But what of 20-50 something bracket? The Generation Y aka Millennials or “Digital Natives” have apparently been brought up on technology and it’s assumed they know what they are doing because of the widespread use of technology in the home and at work. iPads, iPhones, laptops, netbooks, smart TVs, and many other increasingly smart devices – But are they really making the best use of them, and most importantly, safely?

You might be thinking that – given all the recent media drive about learning to code – this is what I want adults to be able to do. But you’d be wrong. It’s far less “geeky” and far more important than that. it’s about protecting yourself, your friends and your family. It’s about taking the mystery out of technology, and taming the “Big Bad Wolf” that supposedly lurks online, by taking control of your own safety.

Because these Gen Ys are usually the first port of call for the silver surfers (their parents) and the people most likely to be passing down skills and habits to a younger generation (their own children). And yet, they are fast becoming a major problem.

How many adults do you know who:

  • get caught out by phishing emails?
  • get caught out by Facebook scams offering free prizes if they like and share a page?
  • share posts that are false alarms or hoaxes?
  • struggle to find up-to-date legitimate information using search engines and confirm sources?
  • actually understand and apply privacy settings on Facebook?
  • Purchase goods and services online, and can determine if the dealer is reputable and secure?
  • understand how to convert information/data from one format to another?
  • understand copyright issues relating to use and citation of material found online?
  • understand social etiquette in a public environment – can’t grasp that saying bad things on the internet is no different to saying it in public?
  • understand their rights according to privacy and data protection act?

If you don’t know many adults like this, it’s possible you’re one of the blissfully unaware adults that I’m talking about.

What can we do?

It’s not good enough to just brush it aside and say it doesn’t matter. If you are using it, as a digital native you have a responsibility to yourself and to others around you to use the technology responsibly. To understand the basic rules of the road, and to follow the core principles – question everything, never believe anyone at face value, be nice to each other, and if you don’t mind, learn enough about the basic functions of technology to save your friendly geek one less job each time they pop round for dinner. 😉

These aren’t hard concepts to understand but they escape a vast number of supposed digital natives. These are concepts that could potentially risk not only themselves, but their friends and family, all of whom then pass on bad habits to their own parents and their children. At some point I suspect it will also impact on their chances of jobs in the future job market.

The programmes aimed at school children and silver surfers are a great thing, but the Gen Ys definitely need support and education as well. The problem is how to target them and make them realise they need help, something I’ve not quite worked out yet. Any ideas?


I first mooted this post on helpmewrite.co, and was supported by the following people: paulmassey, Fikri Rasyid, Aisha Rawji, Courtney Boyd Myers, Enrico Susatyo, Lewis Flude, and ntlk

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