Digital Literacy

Subjects: Education Studies
Created by: Sandro Serpa

The importance of Digital Literacy. 

Presently, we live in an increasingly digitalised knowledge society, whose approach often takes place from a young age, either formally through School, or in an informal way through other life contexts. Thus, the development and mobilisation of competences in the selection, understanding and use of information that comes through this means, understood as digital literacy, is critical in the daily life of individuals, so as to allow a more accurate reading of this reality, a better ability to select existing information (see the example of the proliferation of fake news) and the promotion of a broader scientific culture.

However, while in most situations young people have access to the digital world on a daily basis, at least in social networks and in the use of electronic mail, it may not be assumed that these users necessarily have high digital literacy. Having access to information is not synonymous with having access to knowledge.

Following Santos and Serpa (2018), Martin (2006) defines digital literacy in the following way: “Digital Literacy is the awareness, attitude and ability of individuals to appropriately use digital tools and facilities to identify, access, manage, integrate, evaluate, analyse and synthesize digital resources, construct new knowledge, create media expressions, and communicate with others, in the context of specific life situations, in order to enable constructive social action; and to reflect upon this process” (p. 155). In a sentence, “Digital literacy requires the individual to understand the societal issues raised by digital technologies and possess critical thinking skills” (Wikipedia, 2017), which implies the mobilisation of wide-ranging competences (Sá & Serpa, 2018a, 2018b).

Thus, how to foster digital literacy? The answer is not simple. Any situation may potentially be a learning moment, depending on multiple factors (socioeconomic context, gender, age, predisposition, etc.). Fostering digital literacy implies reflecting on these factors and how explicit and intentional strategies can be promoted that enable digital users to develop the abilities to deal with these realities in an informed, critical and conscious way. In any case, it is about providing children and young people with tools that allow them looking at the digital in a thoughtful way, promoting competencies that help them be more alert citizens regarding a careful choice of the privileged sources of information, which will result in better preparation for social, academic and professional success, also in this area.


Note: Text based on Santos, A. I., & Serpa, S. (2018). For further development, see Santos, & Serpa (2017) and the references.



Wikipedia (2017). Digital literacy. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_literacy. Accessed on February 24, 2017.

Martin, A. (2006). A European framework for digital literacy. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 2(1), 151–161.

Sá, M. J., & Serpa, S. (2018a). Transversal competences: Their importance and learning processes by higher education students. Education Sciences, 8(3), 126, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci8030126.

Sá, M. J., & Serpa, S. (2018b). Transversal competences. Encyclopedia. Section: Social Sciences, Education Studies. https://encyclopedia.pub/83.

Santos, A. I., & Serpa, S. (2017). The importance of promoting digital literacy in higher education. International Journal of Social Science Studies, 5(6), 90-93. ISSN 2324-8033; ISSNe 2324-8041. doi: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijsss.v5i6.2330.

Santos, A. I, & Serpa, S. (2018). A literacia digital [Digital literacy]. AGORA – Jornal da Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade dos Açores, 13, p. 1. Açoriano Oriental. CLXXXIII (20281).



Ana Isabel Santos (University of the Azores, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Department of Education; Interdisciplinary Centre for Childhood and Adolescence –NICA –UAc, and CIE (Center for Educational Research) -ISPA, Instituto Universitário, Portugal)

 Sandro Serpa (Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of the Azores, Portugal; Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences – CICS.UAc/ CICS.NOVA.UAc, Interdisciplinary Centre for Childhood and Adolescence – NICA – UAc)

Cite this article

Sandro, Serpa. Digital Literacy, Encyclopedia, 2019, v1, Available online: https://encyclopedia.pub/103