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The Importance of Online Literacy

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Since the mass adoption of personal computers with the promise of free access to the worldwide web, a new era of information technology has forever changed the way humans access knowledge and communicate that knowledge with one another.

Having such a powerful tool at the disposal of the common man, shouldn’t every single person possess the same foothold on the world’s knowledge?  Shouldn’t people from every walk of life share the same ingress to the internet? 

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.  Much like everything else in life beside breathing, eating, and dying — you must acquire skills to use the internet effectively.  Online literacy is a must if you want to be a capable participant in this new era of information technology.

Defining Online Literacy

What exactly is online literacy anyway?  Is it akin to the general definition of literacy where having the ability to read the words on your display, much like you’re doing right now, asserts literacy?  Not exactly.  There’s a much more determined definition — one that encompasses what it truly means to be proficient in this digital age.  

The benchmarks of online literacy have been adapted as technology has progressed in the last several decades.  There are four major aspects to proficiency regarding internet use.  First, you must be able to access it.  The advancements of personal computers have made this step ubiquitous.  Nearly everyone can access the internet or learn very quickly thanks to the designers of modern technological interfaces.  There is a question of physical access or a way in which you can use or acquire the hardware to interface with the world.  

Access can be a multitude of things including; using a web browser, scrolling through Twitter, playing a quick game of Wordle, messaging your friends and family, streaming the Real Housewives of Dallas, and much more.  By now, most individuals on the planet utilize some device or another.  Access is the first and most important benchmark for online literacy. 

The next two benchmarks of digital literacy include analyzing and evaluating what you see and hear.  Being witness to such a vast amount of information daily requires a critical eye.  Reading an article, watching a YouTube video, or scrolling through social media can provide you with an absurd amount of information, and sorting through that mess to discern what is useful or relevant makes for a daily challenge.

You have a certain responsibility to monitor what you absorb or redistribute on the internet.  Without the skills to determine what is or isn’t harmful to you, your family or society at large, danger is present.  Analyzing and evaluating information, entertainment, and communications marks a very important set of skills for someone to be considered online literate.

The last benchmark can be described as having the ability to communicate effectively over an online platform.  Creating a recollected version of the information you gathered in a digital format is the sign of a literate individual. This is essentially research and regurgitation,.  Accuracy is paramount and will determine how skilled you are in communication, but particularly online.  Cooperation and collaboration also fall into this benchmark as communication is such a broad descriptor.

A sub-skill to the notion of online literacy is an ability to create new knowledge from communication and technology mediums.  This is called information literacy.  Becoming proficient in examining the information strewn about will prepare anyone to be an active and effective participant in this new information society. 

Why Online Literacy?

What’s the big deal?  Surely, anyone who has had prolonged access and repetitive use of the internet has acquired these skills already?  This is wishful thinking.  The ambitious definition of online literacy we have sought requires a studious use of the internet to fully achieve.

How would one be expected to take full advantage of all the internet has to offer without being literate in the language of this new society?  The value of the internet, the true value, is just how expansive the opportunities are — people are building empires with some keystrokes and an understanding of the power of the web.  Who wants to miss out on that?  This is the importance of digital literacy!  It’s about having the tools necessary to make the most of all the internet has to offer!

Some other side-effects of becoming literate in the virtual world include things like: 

Increasing your knowledge economy or allowing yourself to become more marketable by learning new skills or trades online.  The more you know, the more opportunities you have and the more money you make. 

Becoming a lifelong learner in any and every topic imaginable!  With as much information as there is floating around, you can dedicate your life to learning new information or skills.  There are groups of people dedicated to providing information or offering online classes to educate the masses!  Passionate individuals sharing their stories and knowledge to anyone who will listen.  Everything is accessible and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  Learn forever!

Exploring your civic duties by staying informed on the current state of the world.  In this democratic age, the people have the right to know what is happening and why.  We have the right to demand change and the power to see it made.  Allowing yourself to practice good online literacy can improve your ability to hear the talking points of the world and make decisions based upon that.

Adapting to this new challenge of sifting through opinions, information, entertainment, and hogwash can be a great challenge. Mitigate anxieties and stressors by understanding the nature of the internet and avoiding the malarky, the dangers, and the misinformation.  Become a scholar, learn a trade, talk to people!  The world has never been so connected, information so accessible, entertainment so easily consumed — it’s all at the tips of your fingers.  Charming as the worldwide web might be, exercise caution and happy surfing!


Southern Careers Institute trains students in a variety of programs to prepare them for their future in Texas. With eight campuses in Texas along with online programs, it is SCI’s mission to provide employer-tailored programs to students. To learn more about the programs, start dates, and financial aid, visit 

This article was published on: 05/2/22 9:39 AM

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