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Equipping Young People For the Digital World

Equipping Young People For the Digital World

Originally posted @ probonoaustralia.com.au

In today’s digital age, where young and old people alike are always “online”, Optus’ Digital Thumbprint program is there to support digital citizenship for young people so they can engage positively in the digital world.

Today’s “always on” world offers fantastic opportunity for creativity, connection, education and even recreation. But has digital citizenship education kept pace with the speed of technological change? Is digital citizenship even on the radar for educators and parents? And are young people – including those in the programs and schools you may work with – being equipped enough to thrive in the digital world?

What is digital citizenship?

Just as citizenship describes being part of a society, “digital citizenship” describes being part of a digital society. It’s about the attitudes, skills, knowledge and behaviours that enable people, young and old, to enjoy and participate in digital spaces.

Education models that work

Fear-based education programs that seek to change people’s behaviour by “scaring them straight” have been repeatedly shown to have at best, limited effectiveness. And when it comes to digital citizenship education, research shows that highly relevant campaigns that focus on self-efficacy are more effective at changing behaviour.

Optus’ Digital Thumbprint program was launched in 2013 to support digital citizenship for young people. Over the last five years, over 250,000 Australian students have learned helpful strategies to engage positively in the digital world.  

Digital Thumbprint with Kids Helpline focuses on early intervention and awareness for primary school students in grades 2-6, and within secondary schools, Digital Thumbprint engages students years 7-12.  Many of the concepts taught are important for both primary and secondary students and focus on issues such as cyberbullying, cybersecurity, how to balance use of technology, understanding digital presence, and how to be discerning by understanding what is fact vs fiction.

How parents and caregivers can support positive online experiences

Along with teachers and expert facilitators, parents and caregivers play an important role with supporting young people to have safe, responsible and positive digital experiences. And the good news is that you don’t have to be a digital native or expert in digital media to do so. Good practice at home starts with conversation and engagement in a child’s digital interests.

Digital Thumbprint Conversation Guides have been developed to support parents and caregivers to have structured conversations with young people about some of the difficult topics relating to the digital world. These free, downloadable guides cover challenging topics that relate to digital security and privacy, cyberbullying and online interaction, and how to study and manage time in the most effective way.  

Bullying of any kind is a hot topic for parents, but in this digital age, where young and old alike are always “online”, the concerns and risks factors have expanded exponentially. A confronting reality for parents is that young people who are bullied repeatedly at school are almost seven times more likely to be cyberbullied. There’s no doubt that cyberbullying is harmful and can easily lead to damaging, even devastating consequences. You can read more in our 5 Tips for parent on cyberbullying article.

While most social media platforms exclude accounts for anyone younger than 13 it doesn’t stop younger children from creating them. Almost all secondary school students use some form of online social networking, either directly or in multi-user online games.

And when it comes to gaming, some great advice from one of Australia’s biggest Twitch streamers Kathleen “Loserfruit” Belsten and Marcus Carter, a lecturer in digital cultures at the University of Sydney, is that when parents play the games with their kids, the result is better for everyone overall.  For those not familiar with Twitch, it’s a global platform for watching and streaming gaming broadcasts and other pop culture.  

In addition to participating in your child’s game of choice, the Office of the eSafety Commissioner recommends planning screen-free time and tech-free zones and times at home.  Further tips and a free parent’s guide, available in 14 languages, are available on the Office of the eSafety Commissioner website.

Do you know a young person or school that would benefit from Digital Thumbprint?

The Digital Thumbprint program provides free digital citizenship education for both primary and secondary school students. So, if you work with young people or are a parent or caregiver, please follow the links below for further information, including how to book Digital Thumbprint workshops:

More information

Further information on Optus’ Community programs can be found on our Sustainability Website.  

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