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Digital Literacy Helps Keep Young People Safer Online

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Digital literacy is essential for young people to have safer online experiences. You play an important role in teaching youth about digital literacy. So, you’ll need to be aware of how young people interact with technology. And how you can educate them to stay safe online.

You ensure young people are safe in your programs and in their community. It is equally important to help young people learn to be safe in digital spaces too.

If you haven’t really thought about educating young people how to be safe online, now is a great time to get started. Because there’s always more to learn, this might just be a good refresher for you.

Online platforms are always evolving. You will need to continue to keep up with new platforms and how they work. More importantly, you’ll need to know what young people use them for.

As a lifelong learner, you will be better equipped to help support young people navigate their online engagement safely.

Learn what young people are accessing so you can help them develop digital literacy. Teach them what to watch out for. And what healthy, responsible online activity looks like.

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    Build trust when engaging with youth

    Young people, like all of us, need to connect with others. There are so many online options for them to connect with their friends and meet new people. How you engage youth when talking about digital literacy matters.

    Here are some guidelines for you to create a safe and trusting environment. You want to feel comfortable having the conversation. And make space for youth to trust you.

    • Provide Open Communication - maintain open lines of communication, and encourage them to share their online experiences and challenges by being non-judgmental.
    • Be an Active Listener - Build trust when young people share their online experiences, they will feel valued.
    • Create a supportive environment – Create space where young people feel comfortable sharing their digital experiences and asking questions.

    Helping young people feel at ease goes a long way toward having real dialogue. Some of the conversations can be difficult when teaching about threats to their safety online. You’ll need to build up your own comfort level, too.

    Empower young people through digital literacy

    Many young people have digital devices that keep them connected all the time. Being online is often the primary mode of communication. And their source for entertainment and learning.

    You can provide young people information and tools to navigate more safely.

    • Organize workshops on digital literacy
    • Offer opportunities for them to ask questions
    • Encourage peer support
    • Teach about protecting their personal information
    • Educate about cyberbullying awareness and how to address it

    Your role as a youth worker is to help ensure that young people know how to have a safe online experience.

    Promote positive and safe online behavior

    Promoting positive online behavior for young people is critical. You play a significant role in guiding young people to make responsible choices in their digital lives. Here are some key strategies to promote positive online behavior:

    Encourage Critical Thinking Skills

    • Question the credibility of online information
    • Identify false information
    • Understand the importance of fact-checking
    • Think critically before believing and sharing or what they see online

    Create and Build Positive Online Communities

    • Join groups focused on their interests
    • Emphasize contributing positively to supportive communities
    • Respect other people’s opinions
    • Avoid unhealthy online spaces

    Encourage Self-Care and Well-Being

    • Teach young people how to balance screen time with in-person interactions
    • Discuss the signs of digital addiction and promote self-awareness
    • Suggest taking periodic, short breaks from online activities
    • Emphasize mindfulness strategies and other self-care activities
    • Help them learn how and when to ask for help from trusted adults

    Young people love to communicate with their friends and have a sense of belonging. Help young people navigate their online presence responsibly and safely to ensure their well-being. Provide information on resources they can reach out to for support. Check out our training, Exploring Trends in Tech Use and Internet Safety With Youth. 

    About the author

    Joanne Rice is the member satisfaction specialist for the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!

    To ask Joanne a question or share your feedback about this blog, email [email protected].

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