While we often talk about young children's literacy and numeracy skills a group of Wollongong researchers believe we should add digital literacy to that list.
A panel of researchers at the University of Wollongong (UOW) hosted a lecture on September 7 to answer some of the common questions they receive from parents about their children's technology use.
The argument about whether young children should even be using digital technologies has passed according to UOW Professor Lisa Kervin.
"We know that it's in their lives, so I think our responsibility now moving forward is to make sure that children are using digital technologies in ways that are developmentally sound for them, and ways that are socially safe for them, and ways that are really engaging," Professor Kervin told the Mercury.
About 81 per cent of Australian parents say their two to five-year-olds use the internet, according to E-Safety research.
The UOW panel included Professor Lisa Kervin, Associate Professor Jessica Mantei, Associate Professor Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett, Dr Dylan Cliff and Dr Rebecca Ng.
How do we make sure our children are safe online?
Dr Dylan Cliff explained that parents today are extending the 'stranger danger' lesson to both online and offline.
He gave the example that young children learn from a young age to identify the difference between an adult stranger at a park that they shouldn't approach versus a child stranger that they can potentially become friends with.
Once you take that scenario online, young children can't easily identify or understand the idea of someone hiding their identity online, Dr Cliff explained.
"Many adults every year get tricked by online scammers pretending to be someone they're not. So we can't expect children to be able to kind of solve or, even ask themselves these questions by themselves," Dr Dylan Cliff said in the lecture.
"Through the process of developing digital literacy skills, we can empower children to be cautious and critical without being anxious and scared of the digital world."
What does this whole idea of a digital footprint mean and what can we do about it?
It's natural for parents and educators to capture the big milestones in children's lives and share them. However the panel said they should be mindful of the digital footprint they are creating of the child.
The term is known as 'sharenting', Professor Kervin describes it as "a digital identity created by other people not necessarily the self".
Researchers acknowledged that sharing images and videos can be positive and is a way that we connect with each other when we live far away.
They advised people to stop and ask themselves the best way to share the image, to question whether it needs to be shared while the event is happening, and to ask how the information in the image can be used now and into the future.
"We should be asking for their consent, this is a teaching tool anyway. It's very important to elevate children's voices," Associate Professor Cathrine Neilsen-Hewett said in the lecture.
A local parent told the panel that they're worried that they may have already overshared and asked: "Can you fix a digital footprint?".
Dr Rebecca Ng said it's not about deleting all the photos in one go but having ongoing conversations with children about what their feelings are.
For advice on online safety visit: www.esafety.gov.au
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