Forum calls for joint effort on digital skills

2020-12-28 12:03:36

[Photo/IC] Improving children's digital literacy requires the combined efforts of schools, families and society, experts said at a forum in Beijing on Saturday. Internet platforms need to shoulder the responsibility of providing proper content for juveniles and deploying advanced technologies to protect them, while parents should learn to use the internet and improve their own digital literacy together with their children, said Zhu Yongxin, deputy secretary-general of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Schools should run courses on information technology and the internet to help students improve their digital literacy, he said. Zhu made the remarks while attending a forum on children's digital literacy that was held by 21st Century English Education Media and Tencent in Beijing. Saying digital literacy refers to a person's ability to use computers and online resources to find, organize, understand, evaluate and analyze information, Zhu said the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the digitalization of education in China, but also exposed deficiencies in digital literacy among teachers, parents and children. Teaching quality was affected to some extent, as some teachers lacked training and practice in online teaching before the pandemic forced them to teach that way. Meanwhile, parent-child relationships in some families were undermined as parents worried about their children's overuse or improper use of the internet and electronic devices. A report released by the China Internet Network Information Center in May showed that 32.9 percent of primary school students had started using the internet before they reached school age, and 99.2 percent of juveniles know how to use the internet. About 9.9 percent of juvenile internet users spend an average of two hours on the internet every day on weekdays, and 10.4 percent spend five hours or more on the internet each day during weekends or holidays, the report said, adding that 10 percent of juveniles are harmed by overuse of the internet. "Against such a backdrop, more attention should be paid to the improvement of children's digital literacy," Zhu said, adding that efforts from all sides are needed. Sun Yunxiao, a senior researcher on home education at the Chinese Association of Education, said all of society, particularly teachers and parents, should treat the internet as a tool, not a threat to children's development. All parties should join hands in creating a better environment for juveniles to use the internet and establishing a system to protect children, he said. Citing research by Beijing Normal University in 2018 involving over 180,000 primary school and middle school students nationwide that showed children's addiction to the internet mainly resulted from the absence of support from a loving family, Zhu said parents should set an example for children on how to use the internet properly. Bian Yufang, director of the Institute of Mental Health and Education at Beijing Normal University, who participated in the research, said more research has showed that as parents and children become closer, children's sense of belonging at school rises and their addiction to the internet declines. That means parents have a lot to do, including accompanying and communicating more with their children, she said.