Digital literacy is an important concept for understanding the reality of how all segments of society are able to function well with the use of electronic devices connected to the Internet.
In this article we will explore this concept of digital literacy and we will see what elements it is made of and how it relates to the detection of false information on the network.
What is digital literacy?
Digital literacy is defined as the ability to access, manage, understand, integrate, communicate, evaluate and create information securely and appropriately through digital technologies. This means that it goes beyond the ability to use a cell phone or computer in a basic way.
To read and write digital media from multiple media such as TV, computers, tablets and smartphones and in different forms such as written texts, graphics, infographics, audios, videos , hypertexts or a combination of these, it is necessary to keep in mind that people need various learning concepts such as technological culture, media culture, multimedia culture or computer culture.
This situation means that people who are not trained in information and communication technologies, in their professional, educational, social and even personal world, become a marginalized citizenship class and therefore have less possibilities to develop and develop. to function at all social and professional levels. This gap is much larger in poor countries and in sectors where urban development is much more advanced than in cities and rural areas., where you don’t have the technological infrastructure or the knowledge.
Over the past two years, digital literacy deficits have taken center stage due to the consequences of overcrowding due to the COVID19 pandemic, since many education and work activities had to be transferred to virtual mode or teleworking, given the impossibility of going in person to educational centers and construction sites. Although on the other hand, there is no doubt that with the rapidly expanding pandemic, it would have been impossible to think of the world without computers, telecommuting scenarios, online schools, or apps to reduce the impact. lack of education or work for people who have access to digital technology.
Digital competence and IT competence
It is necessary to differentiate in order to achieve digital literacy and know the role of training in the functioning of society. On the one hand, it is necessary to have basic knowledge such as knowing how to use email, spreadsheet or a text editor, which constitute knowledge called “digital competence” (Digital Literacy) and they are fundamental in the 21st century, but not sufficient for a competitive society like today’s, especially in certain professions.
On the other hand, in every profession a type of problem is solved, and most problems have many ways to be solved, but not all solutions can be implemented on a computer. It must be taken into account that more emphasis should be placed on the computer knowledge (hardware, networks, databases, programming, applications) needed to develop these ideas. This double vision (way of thinking and knowledge of the basics of computer science) is often called “computer skills”.
How important is digital literacy today?
The lack of digital literacy has been described as an element that has affected communication in the context of recent phenomena such as fake news COVID 19 vaccines and the 2020 presidential elections in the United States.
In fact, several studies indicate the existence of factors that may indicate a relationship between digital illiteracy and the tendency to share unreliable information on social media.
From the deficit theory, we consider that the people who can fall into “hoaxes” and false information are those who do not have a sufficient level of knowledge to distinguish between real and false information. In this dimension, it is also important to consider the possible absence of scientific and media culture.
One of the main reasons older people might believe in fake news is that older people may have lower levels of digital, science, and media skills, which could make it difficult for people to identify content with fake news. information, such as images that have been modified. One could argue that an increase in digital literacy could help reduce fake news headlines.
Another theory says that people they may believe in false information that equates to their pre-existing beliefs or worldview. Likewise, an excessive belief in self-knowledge (seeing it as superior to the rest) and the tendency to be receptive to pseudo-deep content (i.e. content that has a high number of words which may not have a specific meaning in a sentence) can predispose people to believe fake news.
This way these people could have Difficulty identifying the lack of precision in the content they find in information on social networks, which makes it “fit” into all kinds of belief systems.
Less predisposition to disseminate “hoaxes” online?
It has been believed for some time that social media users with a low level of digital literacy may be more likely to be misled by virtual disinformation. However, just being someone who is digitally savvy does not necessarily imply that that person wants to share truthful information on social networks, revealing that there is a gap between truthful information and the intentions to distribute content on the networks.
In the study Sirlin and colleagues conducted at MIT in 2020, two metrics were used to measure the relationship between digital literacy and the tendency to share truthful information on networks.
The first measure of digital literacy is based on the traditional definition of this concept, which emphasizes have the basic digital skills necessary to successfully find information on the internet. To measure this, a questionnaire was used with questions referring to internet terms and attitudes towards technology.
A second questionnaire focused directly on literacy in social networks, and measures this constructs from questions in which users are asked about the information they decide to share on social networks. This methodology identify people’s susceptibility to fake news on social media: if a person is not able to identify that there are no editorial standards for sharing information on social media, there would be a lower level of skepticism about the quality of the information being shared on networks.
The first conclusion of the study indicates that a higher level of digital literacy allows people to have greater discernment against false and true information. It has been found that there is a correlation between knowledge of the internet and the ability to understand Facebook’s news algorithm. The size of this correlation is also comparable to the correlation found with knowledge of procedural news and analytical thinking.
A second observation allowed us to observe that the most digitally literate network users do not have a better discernment between real and fake news. There is also no significant correlation between familiarity and knowledge of the Internet with procedural knowledge of current events or with analytical thinking, a situation which can be curious as an important relationship has generally been found between the analytical thinking and the discernment of fake news in the virtual world. world.
A third result of this study focused on observing whether the political ideology of the participants (Republican or Democrat, for the case of this study) can determine the tendency to believe and share false information in the virtual world. It was possible to identify that there is no evidence to justify a relationship between affiliation to a specific political ideology and the discernment of truthful information or the ability to choose truthful information from social media.
While the development of digital literacy has not been observed to ensure greater discernment of what to share on social media, this contrasts with the usefulness of procedural knowledge of current events, which is acquired through practice, and which is positively linked to the ability to identify false information in virtual media and with the intention of sharing real information.
This fact would make it possible to conclude that it is preferable to concentrate on educational interventions in which the development of a procedural knowledge of current events prevails, which would develop by the practice and which is not necessarily acquired consciously, au- beyond digital literacy. to prevent the proliferation of false information on networks.
This could imply that although the development of digital literacy it is necessary in contexts where technology is necessary to guarantee better living conditions For people, it is also essential to supplement this work with education to discern between true and false information at a time when a lack of information can end up affecting people more, more in contexts such as the coronavirus pandemic. . , in which people can be guided to make decisions that directly affect health due to the presence of information bias.
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