Digital Literacy for Kids: 7 Ways to Teach It

By Willow Breckenridge | May 17, 2021

Your children live in a digital world. You probably gave thanks for this development over the past several months if they spent time learning online. However, they have to understand the medium before they can effectively master the material — and stay safe online. 

How can you instill digital literacy for kids? Here are seven ways for parents and educators to teach it. 

1. Play Lawyer

The online world raises many questions, not the least of which is where free speech ends, and harassment begins. What better way to have your learners haggle with such decisions than having them don their attorney hats? 

This activity works best with older children who can make moral distinctions between what sort of behavior qualifies as substantially disruptive and constitutes a threat. Present students with various court cases, such as those where students create fake social media profiles for teachers or cyberstalk classmates. 

Assign students to groups and have them argue as attorneys for either side. The other students in the class can serve as the jury. 

2. Make a Healthy Choice

If you are like many parents, you probably worry about how much screen time your kids have. While their computer usage might have increased over the past year, what they expose themselves to matters more than the time on their devices. 

You can begin this lesson by brainstorming various types of media and sharing their ideas. Examples might include televisions, cellphones and computers. 

Then, have students track their media usage. As they interact with each form, they complete a mood tracker to examine how each interaction made them feel. Finally, they compose a reflection and write a recommendation for a healthy balance of screen time and outside activities. 

3. Tweet History

Many world leaders now take to Twitter to tweet about their policy decisions and current affairs. What would this social media site have looked like if figures like George Washington and Harriet Tubman had access back when they lived? 

You can start this activity by making various tweets and asking students to identify which famous historical figures would have made them. Then, divide students into groups of three to four and let them invent tweets to challenge their classmate’s teams. 

4. Evaluate Sources

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching research paper writing entails showing students how to locate reliable sources. You can find backing for nearly any assertion online these days, but that doesn’t mean the information is credible. 

For this activity, begin by printing out three separate articles on a similar topic — pick something engaging, like school uniforms. Ask your learners to identify the main idea and author’s purpose behind each piece. Help them develop a checklist to evaluate whether the source is reliable by asking if it credits other sources and echoes things written elsewhere. 

5. Advertisements and You

Online learning means that your students see advertisements all the time. How do these digital intrusions influence their behavior? 

Start your lesson with a discussion of what constitutes advertising. Show your students a few examples and have them identify how each one made them feel. Distribute a worksheet to student pairs asking them to write down what the unspoken messages of various ads are — will owning a certain toy really make them feel happy all the time? 

6. Revise the Story

Your students might think that all news stories are objective, but you know each reporter has a bias. Teach your students to evaluate this by having them rewrite a headline story from a different point of view. 

Assign each learner an article or have them select one that interests them. Begin by identifying the original author’s bias. For example, if the piece involves a proposed new law, does the author seem to support it? 

Then, have your students rewrite the article as if they took the opposing point of view. Remind them that they must hit the five Ws, and encourage them to make their opinion known in less obvious ways. 

7. Seek and Ye Shall Find

Your students will have a less stressful time with any research project if they know how to find what they need. They aren’t born with an innate knowledge of search engine shortcuts and using punctuation to narrow their query. 

Why not have a digital scavenger hunt? You can assign various categories, such as an article from a medical journal, and have learners race to bring you their examples. 

Digital Literacy for Kids: Teach It These 7 Ways

Educators today must address digital literacy for kids to prepare their learners for today’s world. Help your students use media in education with these seven tips. 

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