Press Release | April 2021

Upskilling young people by intertwining financial awareness with digital literacy


Melanie Thomson, Safeguarding Link Governor at a primary school in West Oxfordshire and Online Safety Representative at leading EdTech company, RM

The multinational consumer credit reporting company Experian defines financial literacy as “the ability to understand how to make sound financial choices so you can confidently manage and grow your money”. Yet, when you think back to your time in education, do you remember learning enough about how to make financial decisions? Or is this something you learnt from parents or friends? Perhaps you still find it a challenge?

Today the Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PHSE) curriculum aims to help pupils in England “develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to thrive as individuals, family members and “members of society”, recognising the importance of life skills including financial decision making. In fact, all the countries across the UK have their own version of financial literacy on the curriculum.

However, in an increasingly digital society, schools need to consider cybersecurity as being a crucial aspect of digital education. With the use of banking apps, contactless payments and online shopping growing, being financially aware is about more than just managing your expenditure and saving for a rainy day. Everything from opening a savings account to arranging a mortgage can be done online and remotely. And as the reliance on online banking grows, the greater the risk of cybercrime and, therefore, the need for all of us to understand and manage these risks.

Embedding digital literacy

Beyond the fact that many school age children will be incredibly adept at using technology, their ability to use it wisely and keep themselves safe and secure online is very much in development.

Educating children in an age-appropriate way about what type of personal information they should avoid sharing online is very much a priority. Whether it’s how to ensure their privacy and security settings on social media platforms are sufficient or understanding that not everyone and everything online is reliable and trustworthy, these are vital learning to help young people navigate the digital landscape safely.

With these examples we can see how digital literacy and financial literacy become intertwined. Part of keeping ourselves and our children safe online includes the importance of setting secure passwords or using multi factor authentication (MFA) to increase security. For instance, phishing scams continue to trick consumers of all ages, so educating people how to identify whether a website or email is trustworthy before providing payment information is important for minimising this risk.

Bringing financial literacy to life

When teaching young people about the importance of financial awareness and risk, giving context that will resonate with students is crucial. Given 80% of pupils aged 5-7 spend 9 and a half hours online a week , even primary school pupils are likely to have a digital presence that needs protecting. When it comes to online shopping, for instance, while purchase responsibility will still fall on the parent’s shoulders at this age, most banks now offer children aged 11 and over a current account with a debit card, meaning many children now have the freedom to start making contactless and online purchases. Without the right knowledge and skills, they are at risk of unwittingly making a purchase on a fraudulent site or being vulnerable to accounts being hacked through poor password management.

Organised by the OECD, the recent Global Money Week (GMW), 22nd to 28th March, provided an excellent opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of young people. Such events can help with acquiring the PSHE’s “knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary to make sound financial decisions and ultimately achieve financial well-being.” Schools wanting to talk to pupils about financial matters can access ideas and examples for activities (albeit restricted to digital or in-school activities in 2021) and planning workshops and lessons as part of this initiative.

A collective approach

The current generation of school pupils are not only digital natives, but they are also unlikely to even remember a time before smart phones became commonplace in the UK. The confidence that comes with being so familiar and comfortable with the online world, however, can give a false impression of the ability of young people to recognise and manage the risks involved.

The question then becomes: whose responsibility is it to educate them on these risks? Schools? Parents? Technology and internet service providers?

Strengthening digital literacy, financial awareness and cyber security skills relies on a strategic, collective approach that doesn’t only rely on the school and teachers but includes parents and carers too. As I alluded to in the beginning, many parents and carers may not feel confident in their own financial and digital literacy skills, which presents an additional challenge.

It’s fair to say that progress is being made, but to progress even further, we must seek to embed these crucial skills wherever possible, whilst also looking for ways to help parents and carers develop their own knowledge and support these efforts at home.

As our society continues to be swept into a digital age, at home, work and school, the growing dependence on technology is matched with the growing threat of cyber-attacks and security vulnerabilities. This demands not only continuous development in technology to facilitate online protection but also education in navigating the ever-changing online world and discerning the risks. Teaching children these key skills will not only help minimise today’s risks but embed valuable skills for them to manage their digital future.

About RM

RM’s technology business unit enables the improvement of education outcomes around the world through the innovative use of existing and emerging technologies. With a heritage dating back almost 50 years, supporting schools, teachers and pupils across the globe – from pre-school to higher education – including examination boards, central governments and other professional institutions.

About RM plc

RM’s technology division is part of the listed company RM plc – the £189m turnover British business, with c. 1,837 employees globally. Established in 1973, RM plc’s Group purpose is to enrich the lives of learners worldwide.

Media Contact

For more information, quotes or images on this story, please contact:

Simon Carter


Sam Shaw
Harvard PR
0207 861 2800

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