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Digital literacy in a connected world; how we stay safe online

Telstra News

Posted on July 16, 2014

3 min read

Cyber safety is one of the key pillars of Telstra’s Digital Inclusion strategy. We want to ensure our customers are equipped with the confidence, knowledge and skills to have a positive experience in the digital world.

Telstra commissioned the University of Western Sydney to write a report exploring the unique behaviours and risks that face children, young people, adults, seniors and parents in their online engagements. The report identifies the most effective cyber safety strategies to specifically address each age cohort. We hope Addressing the cyber safety challenge: from risk to resilience contributes to the broader, community-wide discussion on cyber safety.

Here, lead author Amanda Third, discusses one of the key themes of the report – the importance of digital literacy to cyber safety.

Australians are amongst the earliest adopters of technology globally; we’re a nation that is primed to take full advantage of the benefits of connectivity provided we have the digital literacy skills to do so.

Digital literacy means having the skills and knowledge to confidently access, understand and participate in the digital world. Having the technical skills to navigate the online world is important – but so is understanding how the online world works, what happens to information online, what are online social norms, and what it means to connect.

How do we ensure that we can all access the benefits of connectivity, while minimising the risks?

Digital literacy guides our decisions – how we connect and how we make sense of the vast volume of information available online. In short, digital literacy enables us to maximize the benefits of being online, while being alert, and responsive, to the inevitable risks of the online world. Because of this, we need to be attentive to the ways that we foster digital literacy across the population, particularly with two key groups: parents and seniors.

While cyber safety education in Australia is helping to keep children safe online, evidence shows that, to promote the safety of our kids further, it’s now time to put the focus on the adults in their lives. This is because many adults are not confident enough about their skills to feel like they can help their kids make the best use of technology. By promoting parents’ digital literacy – helping them to understand how and why their children use technology – we can better support parents to guide their children’s online interactions.

Seniors are coming online at an increasing rate to access information and services, and stay in touch with loved ones. But limited digital literacy among seniors can potentially expose them to risks. For example, phishing scams can prey upon the gaps in seniors’ knowledge about the internet, mimicking official communications of banks and other institutions to elicit financial information. Given that seniors stand to benefit significantly from online engagement, it’s imperative that we boost their digital literacy so they can evaluate the quality and reliability of what they come across online, and engage safely and confidently.

The age of connectivity offers us a wide range of social, cultural and economic advantages. To capitalize on these opportunities, we need to build trust and confidence by targeting the digital literacy of key populations.