8 Digital Skills That Every Child Needs to Know Now

children computerAccording to experts, not only will today’s children hold at least seven different jobs during their lifetime, but technology and innovation are moving at such a speed that five of those jobs haven’t even been created yet. So how can today’s adults—many of whom were raised at a time when IT and digital media were specialized, optional skills—possibly hope to equip the next generation with the competencies they will need for the jobs of the future?

According to a recent article from the World Economic Forum, the answer is that parents and educators alike need to move beyond simply using IT as a tool to deliver educational platforms in a new way and instead focus on how to help students build what has become known as digital intelligence, or DQ. Indeed, the question of digital intelligence is so urgent that organizations such as the DQ Institute are calling for countries to establish national digital education programs in order to ensure a fair and even distribution and command of—as well as access to—technology.

What is digital intelligence?

According to the DQ Institute, digital intelligence (DQ) is the blend of social, emotional, and cognitive abilities that are needed in order to be able to lead a healthy and productive digital life. In other words, it’s not simply about knowing how to use technology, but about having sufficient knowledge, skills, and abilities to be able to cope on an emotional and behavioral level with the digital era’s pressing challenges and demands. The ultimate goal of building a high DQ is to ensure that technology will be used wisely, responsibly, and in accordance with key human values such as integrity, respect, and empathy.

What are the three levels of DQ?

child technologyIn broad terms, DQ can be broken down into three distinct levels:

  1. Digital citizenship—The ability to use digital tools and media safely and responsibly, as well as effectively.
  1. Digital creativity—The ability to join and contribute to the digital ecosystem by using digital tools to co-create new content and transform ideas into reality.
  1. Digital entrepreneurship—The ability to leverage digital technologies to address and solve global problems or to develop new opportunities.

It is interesting to note that while digital creativity and digital entrepreneurship are being increasingly addressed in schools and universities—through coding programs for school-aged children, for example, or college courses in such areas as “technopreneurship”—digital citizenship is often overlooked, despite the fact that it is fundamental in setting behavioral norms for all future interactions with and uses for technology. It is at the digital citizenship level that some of the most important digital skills, as described below, are found.

What are the eight main components of DQ?

According to the DQ Institute, in order to help create competent and responsible digital citizens, we must work to equip children with skills and abilities in the following critical areas:

  1. Digital identity—Children need to learn how to effectively build and manage their online identity and reputation. This involves understanding how their online persona and offline lives are connected, as well as being aware of both the short- and long-term impact of their online presence.
  1. Digital use—This is the ability to manage the use and consumption of digital devices and media. Children should know how to control their screen time, multitasking, and involvement in online games and social media in order to create a healthy online and offline balance in their lives.
  1. Digital safety—The online world is full of risks and problematic content, but ignoring them is not the most effective way to keep children digitally safe. Rather, children should understand what the risks are (such as cyberbullying) in order to be able to identify and consequently limit, avoid, or report them.
  1. Digital security—Cyber threats such as hacking, scams, and malware pose another kind of digital risk that children must be prepared to deal with. Training in data protection best practices and security tools is vital for a more secure online life.
  1. Digital emotional intelligence—Children need to learn and understand that there are real people on the other end of their online interactions, and they need to develop the necessary emotional skills to conduct themselves online in an empathetic and constructive manner that takes into account others’ needs and feelings.
  1. Digital communication—This is all about learning how to use digital tools and media to communicate and collaborate with others, as well as how to understand and responsibly manage one’s digital footprint.
  1. Digital literacy—Digitally literate online users are able to find, assess, use, share, and create digital content. This involves honing key skills such as critical thinking, which allows children to see and understand the difference between true and false information, beneficial and harmful content, and trustworthy and unreliable contacts online.
  1. Digital rights—The question of personal and legal rights in an online realm is a critical one for children to understand. They must learn how to uphold their own and others’ rights effectively and responsibly, including the right to privacy, intellectual property, and protection from hate speech.
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