About the Author: Lawyer. Consultant member of the Technology and Innovation Coordination of the Federal Council of the Brazilian Bar Association. Member of the Special Commission on Artificial Intelligence of the Federal Council of the Brazilian Bar Association. Vice-president of the Digital Law Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association – Santa Catarina Section. Research Fellow at the ISLC – Information Society Law Center, Università degli Studi di Milano. Researcher at the Center for Studies in Civil Law and New Technologies, Legal Grounds Institute, Brazil. Member of the Observatory for the Protection of Personal Data, NOVA School of Law. Member of the Scientific Network of the International Observatory on Vulnerable People in Data Protection. Member of The Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Network SCOTLIN (Scottish Law and Innovation Network). Full Professor for the Master’s and Doctorate Program in Fundamental Rights, University of Western Santa Catarina (UNOESC). Completed a Post-Doctorate in Public Law at the University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS-RS). Holds a Ph.D. in Public Law from the University of Vale do Rio dos Sinos (UNISINOS-RS) and a Ph.D. in Law from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB).
Abstract: We live in an undeniable digital age, where connection and technology permeate every aspect of our lives. Children, often referred to as “digital natives,” are growing up in this virtual ecosystem. However, simply being born in the digital era does not automatically make them proficient or safe in this environment. This op-eds highlights the importance of digital education, emphasizing digital literacy in particular, as the key to preparing children not only to interact but also to thrive with integrity and safety in this interconnected world.
Keywords: Digital Literacy; Education; Children; Digital Natives; Online Security.
Summary: 1. Digital literacy as the language of the contemporary era: deciphering, discerning, and interacting 2. The relevance of traditional literacy in the early years of education and its interaction with the digital realm. 3. The collective responsibility of educators, parents, and policymakers in promoting and prioritizing digital literacy.
1. DIGITAL LITERACY AS THE LANGUAGE OF THE CONTEMPORARY ERA
While the virtual environment offers learning and growth opportunities, it also presents significant challenges. It is necessary to enhance learning, as well as to expand opportunities for a formation grounded in human values3. Proper protection is not limited only to legislation, but also to empowerment through education. 4
Currently5, Children represent a large number of online users6. And, therefore, the relationship between children and digital technologies – from internet use to social networks and games – is often met with scrutiny and concern 7.
In this regard, digital literacy is the language of the contemporary era, as it refers to an individual’s ability to interact with digital content, often embedded in a hypertextual web that uses multiple forms of expression8.
It’s important to mention that this structure is non-linear (…) the texts are interconnected through links, directing to other multimodal content9. Given this, digital ability is not limited only to technique, but to knowledge, skills, and attitudes that empower children to navigate safely and competently in an increasingly digitalized environment (…) and in this environment, literacy changes. 10
2. THE RELEVANCE OF TRADITIONAL LITERACY IN THE EARLY YEARS OF EDUCATION AND ITS INTERACTION WITH THE DIGITAL REALM
Beyond its traditional definition that involves the skills to read, write, and calculate, literacy is currently seen as a tool to recognize, understand, interpret, create, and communicate in a predominantly digital world, mediated by texts and in constant evolution. 11
This classical formation, even in the early years of education, converges with the digital world. Successful integration of both is vital to prepare digital natives for an interconnected and dynamic world. Digital culture, due to its fluidity and adaptability, requires that government policies observe how children and young people are trained to navigate these emerging and ever-changing scenarios. 12
Thus, it is crucial to consider the impacts of emerging information and communication technologies in children’s daily lives. These modern technologies, characterized by their speed, vast storage capacity, and ability to reproduce texts, videos, and audios through apps and with AI support, bring challenges. Amidst profound inequalities and weak protection rules, it is vital to ensure children’s safe inclusion in this digital world. 13
3. THE COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY OF EDUCATORS, PARENTS, AND POLICYMAKERS IN PROMOTING AND PRIORITIZING DIGITAL LITERACY
With the rapid advancement of technology and the increasing digitalization of many aspects of daily life, it has become crucial for families to be equipped to navigate the digital world safely and informedly. 17
However, the lack of restrictions and care can expose children to risks18 serious to their physical and psychological integrity. This duality challenges the laws and public policies aimed at digital access in early childhood.
In conclusion, it is not the intention to overlook the considerable advancements that can arise from technological progress and its social impacts on the lives of children who are actively online. The use of the digital space can enhance skill development and open doors to countless opportunities. However, for this, it becomes crucial to adopt a perspective centered on children’s rights, which means not only protecting them from possible dangers inherent in the digital world but also ensuring they have equitable opportunities to enjoy its benefits. 19
1 Vinícius Almada Mozetič has a Postdoctoral degree in Public Law from the Vale do Rio dos Sinos University (UNISINOS-RS). He holds a Ph.D. in Public Law from the Vale do Rio dos Sinos University (UNISINOS-RS) and another Ph.D. in Law from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). He is an attorney and a consultant member of the Technology and Innovation Coordination of the Federal Council of the Brazilian Bar Association. Member of the Special Commission on Artificial Intelligence of the Federal Council of the Brazilian Bar Association. Vice-president of the Digital Law Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association – Santa Catarina Section. He is also a member of the SCOTLIN Research Network of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (Scottish Network on Law and Innovation), a member of the Scientific Network of the International Observatory of Vulnerable Individuals in Data Protection, an associate member of the International Law Association (ILA) – Brazilian Section, and a part of the team at the Information Society Law Center (ISLC – Università degli Studi di Milano). He is a research member of the Center for Civil Law Studies and New Technologies at the Legal Grounds Institute – Brazil and a member of the Observatory for the Protection of Personal Data at NOVA School of Law. He is a professor in the Master’s and Doctoral Program in Fundamental Rights at the University of Western Santa Catarina (Unoesc).
2 Livingstone, Sonia. Critical Reflections on the Benefits of ICT in Education. Oxford Review of Education 38(1):9-24, 2012. Available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232939736_Critical_Reflections_on_the_Benefits_of_ICT_in_Education
3 Laterça, Priscilla Silva & Fernandes, Elora; Teffé Chiara Spadaccini de; Branco, Sérgio (coords.). Privacy and Data Protection of Children and Adolescents. Rio de Janeiro: ITS; 2021. Available at https://itsrio.org/pt/publicacoes/privacidade-e-protecao-de-dados-de-criancas-e-adolescentes/
4 Brazil. Ministry of Education. Online training on literacy practices has over 1 million accesses. April 30, 2020. Available at http://portal.mec.gov.br/ultimas-noticias/12-acoes-programas-e-projetos-637152388/89201-capacitacao-on-line-sobre-praticas-de-alfabetizacao-tem-mais-de-1-milhao-de-acessos
5 Graafland, Julie Hoolt. New technologies and 21st century children: Recent trends and outcomes. OECD Education Working Papers 179, OECD Publishing. 2018. Available at new technologies and 21st century children: recent trends and outcomes
6 Cruz, Elaine Patricia. Agência Brasil. Brazil has 24.3 million children and adolescents using the internet 17 de setembro de 2019. Available at https://agenciabrasil.ebc.com.br/geral/noticia/2019-09/brasil-tem-243-milhoes-de-criancas-e-adolescentes-utilizando-internet
7 Charlotte, Sophie. London School of Economics and Political Science. Safeguarding play: children’s rights and the internet. 12 de julho de 2022. Available at https://www.lse.ac.uk/research/research-for-the-world/impact/safeguarding-play-childrens-rights-and-the-internet
8 Livingstone, Sonia. Youthful participation: what have we learned, what shall we ask next? In: First Annual Digital Media and Learning Conference: Diversifying Participation, 18-20. February 2010, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California. (Unpublished). Available at https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/95754.pdf
9 EduCAPES. What do you want to research? Available at https://educapes.capes.gov.br/
10 Unicef. Digital literacy for children — 10 things to know. Available at https://www.unicef.org/globalinsight/documents/digital-literacy-children-10-things-know#:~:text=Digital%20literacy%20goes%20beyond%20technical%20know-how.%20It%20refers,participation%2C%20socializing%2C%20searching%20and%20learning%20through%20digital%20technologies
11 Unesco. What you need to know about literacy. 29 de junho de 2023. Available at https://www.unesco.org/en/literacy/need-know
12 Trucco, Daniela & Palma, Amalia (edits). Childhood and adolescence in the digital age. A comparative report of the Kids Online Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, and Uruguay studies. Project Documents. (LC/TS.2020/18/Rev.1), Santiago, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. (CEPAL), 2020. p. 36. Available at https://www.nic.br/media/docs/publicacoes/1/20200820160151/infancia_e_adolescencia_na_era_digital_pt.pdf
13 Locateli, Cláudia Cinara & Mozetic, Vinícius Almada. Digital inclusion: comprehensive care and protection in the treatment of personal data of children in early childhood. In: Tramontina, Robinson; Bussinguer, Elda Coelho de Azevedo & Lorenzetto, Bruno. Direitos Fundamentais e Políticas Públicas. Joaçaba: Editora Unoesc, 2020.
14 Trucco & Palma, op. cit., p. 38.
15 Prieto, Susana Beatriz Checa. Children’s consent for the management of their personal data protection: protection or business? Espaço Jurídico Journal of Law [EJJL], 24(1), 27–44. Available at https://doi.org/10.18593/ejjl.32860
16 National Early Childhood Network. National Plan for Early Childhood. 2010-2022 / 2020-2030. Dezembro de 2010. Revisado e atualizado em 2020. Brasília (DF), 20 de junho de 2020. Available at http://primeirainfancia.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/PNPI.pdf
17 Décode les Algorithmes et les Données. Qu’est-ce que l’intelligence artificielle et la littératie des algorithmes et des données?. 2023. Available at https://algorithmliteracy.org/fr/
18 Unicef. More than 175,000 children go online for the first time every day, tapping into great opportunities, but facing grave risks. 06 fevereiro de 2018. Available at https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/more-175000-children-go-online-first-time-every-day-tapping-great-opportunities
19 Charlotte, op. cit.