What Is Digital Literacy, and Why Is It Important?
Digital literacy is the ability to use technology safely to find and evaluate information, create content, and effectively collaborate and communicate. Many of our everyday tasks now require some level of digital literacy. This includes computer and smartphone skills, understanding how the Internet works, using fundamental software programs, and searching the web. Download our Basic Computer Skills Guide to get started.
Digital Skills for Reentry
Today, the Internet is the gateway to everything; digital literacy is a skill for everyday use. Technology is critical in helping individuals communicate and stabilize as they transition to the community.
These skills help reentrants find resources and apply for jobs, stay in touch with friends and family, and apply for government benefits and assistance. From getting a driver’s license to enrolling in school, most tasks are done through a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Email, text messaging, social media, and videoconferencing are all tools to enhance productivity and communication post-release.
Examples of Digital Literacy in Everyday Life
- Using a search engine like Indeed.com to search for jobs
- Creating a resume in Microsoft Word or Google Docs
- Finding a food pantry on Google Maps and getting directions on your phone
- Connecting with a family member on social media
- Filling out forms to apply for government benefits
- Attending a 12-step meeting on a zoom video conference
- Managing a budget in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets
- Searching the Internet to find a new recipe
- Adding your next doctor’s appointment to the calendar on your phone
Free Online Training Courses
Most communities offer low- to no-cost courses at libraries, schools, and Adult Education Centers. Beginners should start with an introductory course to learn about the fundamentals of computer usage, internet navigation, and online security.
Introductory courses teach you to communicate through email, search the internet, print, save a document, and stay safe online. Intermediate and proficient courses will help you become more experienced and knowledgeable about the latest technology.
Websites like NorthStar, Alison, Coursera, and YouTube provide free tutorials for all digital literacy levels. Field experts and professionals often teach classes and webinars.
Online Safety + Digital Footprint
Learning how to protect your data and privacy in the digital environment is critical. Many online applications require your name, address, phone number, and email address to verify identity, schedule appointments, request benefits, and more. The following are best practices for online safety:
- Use a secure Wi-Fi connection when transmitting personal information like your bank account number
- Use strong passwords, and change them often
- Read the privacy policies on websites to know what personal information is collected and how it will be used
- If you receive an email that looks suspicious, do not click on any links, or respond
- Do not give, validate, or verify your personal information if you do not know the person or organization requesting the information
It’s important to be very selective about using your banking information to avoid online scams. If you have been scammed, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).