Parents' Digital Literacy Affects Children's Safety Online, Says Associate Professor Amanda Third

The following opinion piece by Associate Professor Amanda Third was first published by Telstra following the release of their new cyber safety research report, Addressing the cyber safety challenge: from risk to resilience (opens in a new window). 
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 maximise 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 capitalise on these opportunities, we need to build trust and confidence by targeting the digital literacy of key populations.