Beyond cybersafety: The need to develop social media literacies in pre-teens




Pre-teens, digital practices, digital literacies, critical social media literacies, comparative research


Cybersafety has been a mainstay of digital education since computers arrived in classrooms in the mid 1990s. Whether schools encourage students to be ‘cybersmart’ (Australia), ‘netsafe’ (New Zealand) or to be aware of ‘cybersecurity strategies’ (Mexico and Chile) most now devote a relatively large amount of time and money to teaching young people how to ‘stay safe’ online. In this article, we argue that it is time for schools to move beyond the cybersafety discourse to encourage students to think more critically about the digital media they use. Reporting on the digital practices of 276 pre-teens aged 7-12 years in Australia and Uruguay, we contend that the everyday digital challenges young people face are now beyond the scope of most cybersafety programs. Our findings highlight that many of the issues pre-teens are negotiating call for more nuanced and sustained educational programs that support the development of critical social media literacies. In particular, with the proliferation of mass user platforms and artificial intelligence, there is a need for schools to educate students around managing and protecting their personal data. The article concludes with a discussion of the digital learning required for young people in an increasingly datafied society.

Author Biographies

Luci Pangrazio, Deakin University

Luci Pangrazio, PhD, is a Alfred Deakin Research Fellow at the Centre for Research for Educational Impact (REDI) at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Her research focuses on critical digital literacies and the changing nature of digital texts. Luci is currently researching young people's practices and understandings of personal data. Luci’s book ‘Young People’s Literacies in the Digital Age: Continuities, Conflicts and Contradictions in Practice’ was published in 2019 by Routledge.


Lourdes Cardozo-Gaibisso, Universidad de ORT

Lourdes Cardozo-Gaibisso, PhD, is an educator, researcher and applied linguist, currently working on science and digital literacies for minoritized populations at Universidad de ORT, Uruguay. Her research interests include: Culturally Sustaining Systemic Functional Linguistics, TESOL, STEM Literacy, and Teacher Professional Learning. 


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