A framework for kids, parents and educators

In an age where young people are connecting with their friends online every day, access to the internet and online communications services is no longer a privilege for the few that can afford it; it is now part of every young person’s daily life.

As CEO of a digital agency, and a parent myself, I’ve always been vocal about the need to educate not just our children, but also parents, and how youngsters can safely and sensibly make the most of the online world that is available to them.

Where adults have tended to be in the dark about what their kids do online, seeing it as risky and to some extent unproductive, young people have always been highly motivated to participate and engage with digital platforms. Unlike adults however, they’re not streetwise, they don’t understand the threats.

In order to get a picture of how UK parents’ perceptions to their children’s online activity, we commissioned the first ever Digital Literacy Report, launched today.

In the poll with research specialists YouGov, we were pleased to find that the majority of parents see a need to teach their children about how to conduct themselves online, and have demanded the Government introduce lessons to improve young people’s understanding of online privacy and the value of their personal reputation with 69 per cent of parents calling for compulsory lessons to be introduced as part of the national curriculum.

This in part is born of the fact that almost half (48%) of adults asked admitted they were worried that their children’s online actions will potentially harm their future chances of getting into a chosen university or landing a first job. Parents recognise that online comment or mistakes made by young people on sites such as Facebook, Bebo and YouTube will go on to impact their adult lives.

Unfortunately the report also showed there is a lack of control among parents over what exactly children are doing when they log onto the web. With more children accessing sites like Facebook through their mobile phones instead of family PCs, parents are struggling to stay on top of what their children do online, with 44 per cent conceding they don’t ever check the content their kids are accessing or what they are posting online.

If we do not proactively teach young people about the impact of their online activity how can they better protect and promote themselves? There needs to dialogue between parents and their children, as well as at school, where online socialising is recognised as a social and technical skill for contemporary society. Schools as well should be looking to ways to encourage children to use the online tools at their disposal in a positive way, such as setting homework that is based around hosting and reporting a group discussion online.

If we want to see a generation of digitally ‘literate’ adults emerge in years to come, it is our responsibility to ensure it.

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