A Dire Need for Family Digital Literacy
Sun, 29 Jul 2018 || By Admin CfDS

This article is written by Dedy Permadi, Ph.D, Director of Center for Digital Society, and was released on Kompas, 26 July 2018. English translation by Arumdriya Murwani.

On the commemoration of National Children’s Day (23/7/2018), Kompas published a headline regarding gadget addiction among children and teenagers - such was the case for the following day’s headline. A phenomenon that can grip the national headline for two days in a row brought heavy concerns. The negative potentials of gadgets for children and teenagers can be traced to the decreasing minimum age for someone to start using gadgets. Modern parents see gadgets as a way to distract their little ones. The mother of M, one of Kompas’ sources, admits that she has introduced M to gadgets ever since M was two years old. Now seven years old, M has started to imitate profane language from the gamers he sees every day on YouTube.

Unfortunately, the story of M’s mother is no stranger to Indonesian families. Parents seldom understand and recognize the symptoms of gadget addiction experienced by their children. For working parents, it must not be an easy task to monitor and limit their children’s screen time, even though children who spent more than 3 hours a day in front of the screen is at risk of addiction.

The Disparity between Technology and Humans

What is currently happening? In Indonesia, the gap between rapid development of technology and the level of preparedness in the society to respond and wisely utilize it has become the root of the problem.

The use of internet and digital media in Indonesia is massive, and its growth has soared. A survey by the Indonesian Association of Internet Service Providers (Asosiasi Penyelenggara Jasa Internet Indonesia—APJII) stated that the internet had penetrated 143.26 million people in Indonesia. Among this number, 75% are teenagers ranging from 13 to 18 years old. The proliferation of information and communication technology (ICT) and the increasing ease in internet access through mobile services creates an immense amount of digital activities. 87.13%-89.35% of total digital activity is dedicated to access social media and chatting services such as Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram—which boasts 130 million, 99.2 million, and 53 million of users in Indonesia (Facebook, 2018).

At the same time, Indonesia’s human resources lack the adequate qualities to respond to the rapid development of technology. Indonesia ranks 113 out of 188 in the Human Development Index (HDI) (UNDP, 2016). That condition is specifically exacerbated with Indonesia’s performance in the Global Literacy Index, which shows a low 60 out of 61 countries (CCSU, 2016). The last data from APJII shows that only 16.83%-45.14% of internet usage is being utilized to engage in the productive sector, such as the economy, in 2017.

These low levels of indicators show that Indonesia’s digital space is comparable to a torrent. The existing resources and ease of access have become uncontrollable due to the minimum capacity of the users. Instead of being used for productive activities, the accessibility of gadgets and the internet results in a menacing result for Indonesian children and teenagers—such as the dissemination of hoax and hate speech, cyberbullying, terrorist recruitments through social media, and gadget addiction (Kurnia and Astuti, 2017).

The Institute of International Justice Reform (ICJR) announced that there have been around 2700 reports of Electronic Information and Transaction law (UU ITE) violations in 2016. The majority of such violations are hate speech, hoaxes, and doxing in the cyberspace. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying. UNICEF reported that 41%-50% of teenagers in the world are a victim of cyberbullying. A study conducted among middle school students in Yogyakarta shows that 80% of the students had experienced some sort of cyberbullying (Safaria, 2016).

Another looming threat for children and teenagers in the internet is pornographic content. In the span of 2015-2017, the Ministry of Communication and Information had blocked eight hundred thousand sites that contains pornographic content. At the same time, Indonesia is one of the top ten countries in the world which has a high level of bounce access to online pornography (SimilarWeb, 2015). If the root of the problem is not addressed, the rapid digital development which has been a buzzword for many people would have contra-productive results.

Digital Literacy from Top to Bottom

Digital literacy is a prescription to close the gap between the rapid expansion of technology and the lagging qualities of human resources. This concept talks about the cognitive and technical ability for people to interact with the internet and digital instruments/media. There are two components of digital literacy as a grand theme. First, the ability for people to deter negative content; e.g. programs to address hoax, cyberbullying, pornography, digital radicalism, and cybercrime, among the few. The second element is how to introduce positive and productive content to the people; e.g. programs to promote healthy internet use, a wise social media management, digital parenting, digital lifestyle, socialization of the opportunities in the digital economy and transformation, digital startups, digital governance, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity, big data, and others.

From the government’s perspective, Indonesia still needs to plan its digital literacy policies that are comprehensive, collaborative, and empowering. Policies both in the top and the bottom level should be implemented harmoniously. There are two aspects of policies in the upper level that needs to be implemented, which is education (from socialization to the implementation of digital literacy in formal education curriculums) and community empowerment (strengthening collaboration between actors). In this level, there are several examples of ongoing projects such as the National Movement of Digital Literacy (Gerakan Nasional Literasi Digital—#Siberkreasi) wherein 84 formal bodies, ranging from ministries and religious bodies, NGOs, local communities, education institutions, mass media, social media, businesses, telecommunication companies, and digital influencers work together to increase the level of digital literacy in Indonesia. The public can use this service to increase digital literacy through this program.

For the lower level, the policies that have been taken are the ones to prevent negative content with an approach to law enforcement. Law enforcement towards UU ITE violations, along with the systems needed to block sites with negative content had become the focus of this policy. Policies in this level should be a last resort, and that the upper level policies must be strengthened first.

Family as Key

Statistics from Digital Literacy Activist Network (Jaringan Pegiat Literasi Digital—Japelidi) stated that families are not yet fully involved in efforts to increase literacy. Only 12.23% activities in digital literacy target parents as active participant, even though children’s digital activities mostly happen in the family setting.

Sonia Livingston (2017), a professor of Social Psychology argued that a ‘permitting’ digital parenting method is more effective than those that ‘prohibit.’ Children from high income countries are more likely to talk to their parents if they found negative content on the internet. This is because parents in those countries do not hesitate to communicate, guide, give advice and evaluation regarding their children’s behavior and content consumption on the internet. Children from middle and low-income countries, on the other hand, are likely to vent and seek advice from their friends when they stumble upon negative content. Such behavior is a result of an ‘authoritarian’ parenting pattern which often opposes everything the children do online.

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a relevant framework to approach and implement in digital parenting, which are: emotional connection, behavior control, mutual appreciation, setting a good example, and willingness to protect the children. The assumption that children and teenagers would be able to navigate their way properly on the internet because they grew up with them is a misleading assumption. Families, especially parents, must be willing to and actively ensure that their children are digitally literate—which means to ensure their children have enough capacity to utilize the internet productively and positively. If parents themselves are addicted to gadgets and have a hard time identifying negative content, then who can the children look up to?


Dedy Permadi, Ph.D

Director of Center for Digital Society (CfDS) FISIPOL UGM