Digital and data literacy: Comparing children’s understanding of data and online privacy with experts’ and advocates’ data literacy practices.

If you missed Dr Gianfranco Polizzi, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, speaking on the 20th January, you can now catch up with the seminar recording.



This paper frames data literacy as a variant of digital literacy that requires functional and critical skills and knowledge about the internet and the broader digital environment. With this in mind, first I draw on secondary research to reflect on how children in the UK understand, and what they (do not) know, about their data and online privacy. Then, by drawing on my PhD research, I examine how digital experts and civic advocates in the UK – two groups of adults who are, respectively, highly digitally savvy and highly committed to using the internet for civic purposes – deploy data literacy skills and knowledge both in general and within civic life. I argue that while children tend to understand online privacy primarily in interpersonal terms but struggle to understand its commercial implications, experts and advocates often protect their online privacy by engaging in data literacy tactics that serve as acts of resistance against the ways in which the digital environment operates. After discussing how some of these tactics enhance their ability to evaluate online content, I reflect on what we can learn from their experiences with a view to promoting digital literacy through formal education.


Gianfranco Polizzi is a Research Fellow in the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham, where he works on character education in the digital age. Prior to joining the Jubilee Centre in September 2020, he completed his PhD in the Media and Communications Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), his doctoral research explored the ways in which digital literacy and civic engagement shape one another. While completing his PhD, Gianfranco worked as a Research Associate in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia on a project exploring digital resilience among pre-teens. His academic interests, which lie at the intersection of media studies and education studies, include digital literacy, digital resilience, digital citizenship, civic engagement, and character education in the digital age.

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