Internet and social media literacy

What does literacy mean?

Before we look at internet literacy, it is useful to understand what literacy means. Literacy is the ability to read and write and to understand the meaning of the words you read. Most of us learn how to read at school and are provided with a suitable material in a structured manner to develop this skill. 

What is Internet literacy?

Internet literacy is the ability to use devices, such as smartphones or laptops, to access the internet. It covers accessing websites and apps, navigating through them to access content and understanding, to some extent, how and why someone published that content online. The content you access on a website was put there by someone for a purpose, and the hyperlinks are chosen to direct you somewhere specific. Some content encourages responsible sharing through licenses such as Creative Commons while other content’s specific aim is go ‘go viral’. Likewise, the results from search engines such as Google are not purely information but are based on factors such as your location and your online profile. Lastly, the internet is a commercial space and adverts are often hidden as Instagram posts or blog articles. An aspect of internet literacy is the ability to identify what is an advert or not.

What is internet media literacy? And what is social media literacy?

Media literacy is the process by which we identify what media is in the digital age. TV shows, text messages, social media, advertising, video games and online video are all considered media. The second component of media literacy is to identify the messages that the media is sending out. All media was created by someone and for a reason. And now, with today’s digital technology, anyone can be a media creator.

Social media literacy is looking specifically at platforms such as Facebook or Twitter and learning how to critically analyse the content published here from a technical, cognitive, and emotional angle. The technical aspects centre on being aware of how the platform works – who can post what content, how it can be interacted with, and the underlying algorithms that present certain users’ content to you. Cognitively, you need to be able to identify what a reliable source on social media is by looking at, for example, the user’s bio, the number of followers, date when they joined and offline affiliations. Lastly, social media literacy is also about being aware of your emotions and how you react to specific content and interactions.

Internet literacy is the ability to use devices to access content online and to know how to analyse that content

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