Importance of Digital Literacy

by Lim Shiang Shiang

Caption: Information is quick, easy and accessible

Image: Tapfiliate


We live in a fast-paced world where information streams into us faster than any time in human history. WhatsApp notifications for new messages, for instance, pop out almost every minute. As a consequence, information quickly becomes outdated as it is always being replaced with the new one. Nevertheless, information overload helps fake news spread as people start assuming all this information could be true, even if it is not. A good example is during this pandemic, when we saw how easily people can be susceptible to fake stories when it becomes viral on social media. 


Fake news phenomenon is difficult to stop without good cognitive ability because the line between real information and fake news is often blurred. In a study of fake news, Jeong, et. al. (2010) pointed out that cognitive ability that enables individuals to actively participate and engage in information posting and sharing can protect them from the harmful influence of fake news. Such protection is evident in Graham and Triplett's (2017) study, which analysed the influence of digital literacy on phishing email responses. Their study found that those with higher levels of digital literacy seldom respond to phishing emails, thereby protecting them from further threats. This implies the importance of having high levels of digital literacy. Therefore, this article would discuss the importance of digital literacy in curbing fake news.

Caption: Investigating Fake news

Image: Forbes


In an interview with Mehvar Khan, a PhD Student from Monash University who specializes in the research of fake news, she stresses the importance of self-teaching. She stresses that even though government has taken some steps to curb fake news, there is no full guarantee that it will work out all ways, especially different age group may need a different level of education when it comes on tackling fake news. 


She said, “senior citizen is more susceptible to fake news. I feel we need to approach different target groups and provide them more insight and knowledge on digital media”. Besides, she also suggests to educate people at young age as nowadays kids expose to social media at the very young age.  “Maybe we can give them (young generation) seminar or session about digital media and fake news, so that they are more aware of what is happening in today’s digital age, she mentioned.”


Chin Ying Shin, another PhD student at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman who is likewise specialized in fake news study, says that digital literacy can only help curb the spread of fake news if the critical aspect of literacy is improved. He pointed out that digital literacy is more on the ability to be able to critically evaluating the digital contents than merely operating the digital devices. 


 “Any intervention that merely focuses on teaching the public on how to use digital devices will hardly see any good impact on reducing fake news, he said.” He also pointed out that “fake news can be widespread if online users are unable to distinguish truthfulness and falsehood, that makes the critical evaluation in digital literacy a key component in combating fake news.”


Nonetheless, it requires major efforts when it comes on applying critical thinking in authenticating information as it requires extensive research upon verification. However, fake news issue will only become worse if we continue to neglect our role in helping to filter or report information that is suspicious or regarded as misleading. 


To summarize, the practice of digital literacy would definitely enhance enjoyment, understanding and appreciation of online content as it would provide us with more control over the interpretations of online resources. 


Tags/Keywords: Fake News, Digital Literacy








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