It’s no secret that COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives. From how we connect with our loved ones to how often we dine-in (or take out) at a restaurant - a lot has changed. Some of these changes may be temporary, but one change in our lives that is sure to stick is our relationship with digital technologies. The world’s largest organizations have rapidly shifted entire workforces to “work-from-home” models relying on digital video-communication services such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. On a more personal level, we have ordered groceries, goods, and gifts through eCommerce merchants such as Amazon more than ever before. While we can certainly give some credit to a life-changing global pandemic for impacting the way we do things, our increased usage of digital technologies is a trend that started well before COVID-19. According to Canadian Internet Registration Authority, in 2019, Canadians spent between approximately 3-4 hours online each day, and 1 in 5 Canadians don’t go 8 hours without going online.
Given the rapid increase in the adoption of digital technologies, the importance of digital literacy has never been higher. Moving into a digital world has its benefits; it can provide convenience, save time and costs, and improve accessibility to certain goods and services. However, as the world becomes increasingly digital, cases of digital misuse are becoming more common. Digital fraud, identity theft, the spread of misinformation, excessive use of social media, and cyberbullying are just some of the challenges associated with our digital world and these concerns are becoming increasingly apparent to Canadians. According to PREVNet, a leading researcher on cyberbullying based out of Queens University, 64% of parents are concerned about the online content their child is consuming, and 46% are concerned about the online activities their child is partaking in.
Digital literacy relates to any knowledge or education that helps us use digital technologies. It is not simply about technical know-how; it is also about understanding how to maintain a healthy, safe and positive relationship with digital technologies and knowing how to avoid the consequences of misuse or overuse. For example, it may seem straightforward for us to set up a Facebook account and start posting and commenting on the platform, but our experience may be jeopardized if our account gets hacked, or if we allow social comparisons to negatively impact our happiness or self-confidence.
Despite the immense importance of digital literacy today, digital literacy education isn’t always accessible. While youth may quickly learn many of the basic functions of digital technologies at school or through self-directed learning, digital safety and wellness isn’t always a part of their learning curriculum. Parents are challenged with not only keeping themselves and their data safe online but also effectively supporting their children in having a safe and positive digital experience.
So what is TELUS doing about this? As a leading provider of smartphones and internet services, we believe it’s our responsibility to help ensure Canadians are empowered to have safe and positive experiences in our digital world. It was under this imperative that TELUS Wise was created.
TELUS Wise is a free digital literacy program for Canadians of all ages, offering online resources such as articles, videos, guides, and self-directed learning that you can find on telus.com/wiseas well as bookable workshops led by TELUS Wise certified ambassadors. The ambassador group includes TELUS employees, retirees, and police officers who are passionate about offering their expertise and knowledge to help Canadians navigate our digital world. These workshops and resources cover an exhaustive range of digital literacy topics including but not limited to: managing your online reputation, rising above cyberbullying, as well as internet and social media safety and privacy.
TELUS Wise workshops are tailored for different groups including young children, tweens and teens, adults, parents, and seniors. The program has several partners including the MediaSmarts (a Canadian leader in digital literacy education), and PREVNet (a leading researcher on cyberbullying, based out of Queens University) to ensure the program provides relevant, up-to-date, and accurate information and educational resources.
Endorsed by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, and backed by numerous accolades, the program has reached over 340,000 Canadians through its TELUS Wise workshops since inception. Learn more about the program, access free self-led workshops, or book a live, virtual workshop at telus.com/wise.
The world has become increasingly digital, and COVID-19 has only accelerated that. Whether you have a career in digital or you are simply using social media for the first time to connect with family or friends, your life will undoubtedly be influenced by digital technologies. As we increasingly adopt digital technologies into our lives, we must continue to enable Canadians to participate safely in our digital world. That starts with accessible digital literacy, relevant to all Canadians and available to all Canadians.