As technology becomes more important in our everyday lives, so does digital literacy. You may have heard the word mentioned briefly, but never really seen a definition. Well, you’d be surprised that you’re using this essential skill right now.

What Is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy is the ability to use computers, the internet, and technology. It’s playing on your smartphone, using your email, watching YouTube. Digital literacy is reading Medicareful Living. You’re digitally literate whenever you post on social media. See, digital literacy, much like classic literacy, isn’t just about taking in information, but also creating.

Cornell University’s more technical definition of digital literacy is “the ability to find, evaluate, share, and create content using information technologies and the internet.” This illustrates the wide reach of skills incorporated within digital literacy. Not only does it mean being able to find and use technology, but also to understand and create it.

Not only is digital literacy being able to find and use technology, but also to understand and create it.

Now that you see how often you use digital literacy, you’ll also see why it’s so important. But, like classic literacy, it’s important to continue honing this skill. After all, 15 years ago you didn’t have a Facebook page or a smartphone. By getting a social media account or smartphone, you’re developing digital literacy skills.

In fact, if you’re a regular reader of Medicareful Living, you’ll have already become familiar with some of the benefits of digital literacy.

Stay Connected and Communicating

The scourge of senior isolation affects millions around the country, and the world. Digital illiteracy can be a large reason for this. Imagine not being able to send an email or chat via Facebook or Skype. Being able to communicate with loved ones allows you to avoid isolation even if you’re homebound. In this sense, digital literacy brings your loved ones and the outside world to you.

Being able to communicate with loved ones allows you to avoid isolation, even if you’re homebound.

This is why seniors are the fastest-growing population on social media. Digital literacy keeps you more connected, better informed, and happier than seniors who don’t use the internet. When you consider that there are many social media platforms, it becomes even easier to find one for you. Digital literacy is also effective at finding these options, even if it’s as simple as Googling.

Technology is Only Getting More Complex

Just like how you weren’t on Facebook 15 years ago, who knows where technology will go in the future. At the same time, this is creating a world where technology is evolving faster than the society that uses it. This is both a blessing and a curse. One downside is that technology is moving into regions that aren’t currently regulated by law or customs. This is partially why you’ve been getting so many scam calls, even though you’re on the Do Not Call List.

One downside of technology’s growth is that technology is moving into regions that aren’t currently regulated by law or customs.

The benefit of this growth is that it promotes active learning in the digitally literate. If you’re using the newest technology out there, you’ll follow this growth along with the rest of society. This is fantastic for you, since learning a new skill is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp. Learning these new skills also strengthens your brain, making it more efficient.

Staying with the latest technology also makes it easier to continue honing your digital literacy skills. Think about it this way: Technology tends to build on older models of itself. The smartphone got the way it is today by slowly adding features and new capabilities. So, when you start using the next generation of technology, it’s not as big a deal because there’s not a massive difference. But, the more generations you miss, the bigger the difference. Eventually, it’ll almost be like you’re relearning digital literacy from the ground up.

Don’t Get Duped

In the technical definition from Cornell, there’s one factor we haven’t really discussed yet — evaluate. While the benefits of the others (find, share, and create) are self-evident, evaluation is perhaps the most important skill that you can cultivate from digital literacy since it teaches how you should use something.

The buzzword “fake news” has been everywhere lately, and for good reason. There’s been a real epidemic of untrue or misleading news for years now, though it peaked during the 2016 election season. Digital literacy is important for being able to know what is misleading or false and what is a good source of information.

Digital literacy is important for being able to know what is misleading or false and what is a good source of information.

At the same time, digital literacy’s evaluation skill is key to protecting against scams. If you hadn’t known about the area code spoofing scam, you just became a little more digitally literate. By knowing what’s possible, you’ll be warier of what’s out there. Digital literacy also helps you avoid scams by knowing the telltale signs of a scam. By the same reasoning, it’ll also increase your awareness of scams that may open you up to identity theft.

● ● ●

Despite the importance and benefits, a 2018 Pew Research Center poll found 11 percent of Americans are digitally illiterate, including one-third of seniors. With 49.2 million Americans over the age of 65 in 2016, that’s nearly 17 million seniors not using the internet.

Another poll from Pew Research Center found two major reasons many are digitally illiterate — interest and usability. After reading this article, the benefits of digital literacy should make you interested. The usability group, however, is a bit more difficult. This is the population that feels they are too old, scared, or unable to learn.

To combat this, the Obama administration created DigitalLiteracy.gov, a multi-agency effort that fosters digital literacy for people of all ages. You can learn the basics or use an exhaustive list of resources to learn all sorts of skills, from basic computing to online job searches. They even have a section dedicated to skills that seniors may need.