This week in PUB 101, we learned and read all about digital literacy. Specifically, James Bridle’s article “Something is wrong on the internet” discusses the concerning influence of the Internet (and even more concerning types of media) for children in the modern world- colloquially known as the age of the iPad kids. This article got me thinking about the role of media in young kids’ lives, specifically regarding children I personally know and my own experiences.
Children I Know
My dad’s side of the family is relatively big, so most of my experience with young kids comes from my many little cousins. Although I can’t say my childhood was much different, being a Gen-Z kid, nowadays seeing my little cousins’ dependencies on YouTube and mobile devices really makes me question at what age do we truly develop a good sense of digital literacy? Because you surely don’t have it if the content you’re consuming mostly consists of Cocomelon and Baby Shark.
My Own Youth
While I can’t say much about other kids’ proficiency of digital literacy- simply because I can’t see inside their skulls- I can certainly reflect on my own journey which began in primary school. As I previously mentioned, I am very much Gen-Z, which means that I grew up learning in educational settings how to navigate the online sphere safely and effectively. This means digital literacy classes in school, lectures from adults on Internet safety and privacy, learned lessons from independently accessing the Internet in ways you probably shouldn’t have been, etc. Nonetheless, despite all of these sources telling me I was gaining digital literacy, I was still engaging with misinformation/disinformation and doing whatever the heck I wanted to in front of a screen. Sure, restricting access would solve surface level aspects of this issue, but this generation allows anyone, regardless of their age, to be equipped with online access in one way or another. Yeah, I had a decent amount of freedom with my iPad that I was given as a young kid, and I wasn’t doing anything that would evoke a grounding from my parents, but I was still using my best judgement to guide myself in what I did online. And as a kid, your best judgement is usually not good or even sufficient in most circumstances.
Mike Caulfield’s article “Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?” lists a bunch of well-known instances of disinformation online that has escalated to influence people and culture in ways that had been unprecedented until only a couple decades ago. This disinformation circulated and tricked people who were fully grown adults. Take, for example, fake Wikipedia entries, and studies showing that adults now trust news from social media as much as news from reliable outlets. That being said, I know if I had gotten wind of Tree Octopuses as a kid, that’s all I would’ve been talking about with my friends at school the next day. Maybe this is just my hot take, but it seems to me that no matter how concentrated the stream of digital literacy lessons is, kids simply do not have the critical thinking to fully cipher what is and isn’t true when it is presented to them on a screen with a neat little bow. You can give them tools like RADCAB and CRAAP, but my question still stands, what ten year old truly has digital literacy?
Bridle, J. (2018, June 21). Something is wrong on the internet. Medium. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://medium.com/@jamesbridle/something-is-wrong-on-the-internet-c39c471271d2
Caulfield, M. (2016, December 22). Yes, Digital Literacy. but which one? Hapgood. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://hapgood.us/2016/12/19/yes-digital-literacy-but-which-one/
Media manipulation and disinformation – welcome to PUB101 #POSIEL. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.posiel.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Media-Manipulation-and-Disinformation-Online-1.pdf
Tone, S. (2022, July 11). She spent a decade writing fake Russian history. wikipedia just noticed. #SixthTone. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.sixthtone.com/news/1010653
Trust in social media is changing. here’s how it breaks down by age. World Economic Forum. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/11/social-media-adults-information-news-platforms/
Garrett, A., & King, M. (2023, February 12). Best kids’ tablets for 2023. CNET. Retrieved April 11, 2023, from https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/best-kids-tablet/