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What You Need to Know About the 21st Century Skills

This article introduces necessary skills for the 21st century: The concept behind them, why we need them, and how they relate to online safety.

With the rapid changes being witnessed all over the world, especially those that began in the early 21st century and continue until today, it has become very important for each person to determine the skills they require, and then understand them and become adept at them. This is the way we can adapt to the requirements of today and future decades. We must be assured of our level of academic achievement as well as life skills, and be able to adapt, compete, and confront various challenges; especially since technology plays a vital role in building these skills, and many of them are directly or indirectly linked to internet safety. 

Many government institutions, private entities, and independent researchers around the world have tried to pinpoint these skills that are necessary for our age, define them, determine their importance, and how to accumulate and practice them. There remain some differences in the approach, but disagreements are usually surface-level, and there are also interlinks and overlaps between many 21st century skills. Below are listed the most important of these skills, along with information we must have about each skill: 

  • Critical thinking: By this, we mean the individual’s ability to analyze, interpreted, evaluate, and make decisions. It is one of the most important skills for this century, especially with the amount of information we need to process and assess on a daily basis. The internet is considered the largest repository for information and the most important source for relevant information. To properly access this information, we must develop the technical skills needed to conduct searches and use various tools and applications. While using all of these tools, we are exposed to many challenges and risks relating to privacy, personal information, and other factors that may compromise our digital safety and security. 
  • Communication: This refers to several forms of interaction and information-sharing that people use to express their thoughts and convey their opinions. Communication uses several means and is not restricted to face-to-face interactions, as it also includes the use of new platforms and applications. To be good and media-savvy communicators, we must be adept at using websites, social media platforms, email, instant messaging apps, conference calls, among others. Here must emphasize responsible communication and the development and refinement of all aspects of communication skills which serve us very well in our professional and personal lives. We must also be aware of the risks, dangers, and challenges we face in our daily online communications including cyberbullying, privacy breaches, and access to our personal and banking data by various parties –all of which threaten our safety online. 
  • Cooperation: This means the ability to work within a team and achieve a goal within flexible groups of people. In this process, responsibility and tasks are shared between several team members either in a physical space (classroom, lecture hall, office conference room, etc.) or virtual space (online courses, social media, online communities, etc.). This skill is particularly important because human beings are social by nature. We write, post, talk to one another, etc., and we need to share our thoughts and experiences with others to discuss and benefit from their knowledge and their own experiences. We also need those around us to help solve complex problems and to become better at cooperation as well. Being cooperative is not only useful for work and education, but also for mental and emotional health. Online, cooperative interactions go hand-in-hand with the global online culture, and it is considered a key part of being a citizen of the internet. Cooperation is inexorably linked with communication, as good communication is the driver of good, cooperative interactions online. Similarly, to communication, this area also requires us to be very attentive and careful about our digital safety, and be aware of the risks involved or the challenges we face cooperating with others, especially in virtual environments where it’s up to us to ensure our security and safety online. 
  • Creative thinking: This skill requires individuals to brainstorm and develop ideas; engage with the ideas of others, and be able to think and work creatively both in virtual and physical spaces to develop unique and useful solutions. Mastering our creative mind is crucial, as humans are in a constant state of stimulation and brain development, especially when using technology, and we always seek ways to express and distinguish ourselves. On social media, for example, people often display their talents and creations and wait for others to give comments or feedback. To achieve this, a person who is creative online must do online searches or communication or cooperate with others online. And of course, as with most online activity, we face challenges and threats to personal information privacy or be exposed to the theft of our intellectual property. 
  • Cultural and moral awareness, and sense of responsibility: As we live and work in a multicultural environment, it is necessary that we understand cultural differences and show respect and understanding towards others. It also requires us to be able to adapt, be forgiving, and have a global awareness, and also take self-responsibility and self-accountability. This skill is crucial to being a citizen of the global internet, and it requires us to behave at our best in our various interactions –both online and offline. It also means that we protect the online safety of others and respect their privacy, and protect our own personal information when dealing virtually with people from many backgrounds. 

Digital literacy, which includes: 

  1. Digital information awareness: This means digital information literacy through training and teaching individuals on how to find and access information; how to determine the value of the information we see online and use information safely and effectively; and how to preserve online safety and security. 
  2. Digital media awareness: This is achieved by training people on how to access online media safely and effectively, analyze and assess it, as well as create their own online content. Also, this awareness includes digital media literacy where they can understand the messages that we get through various media such as television, radio, books, and magazines, etc.   
  3. Technical skills and know-how: It means technical literacy which is achieved through education and training on the use of digital tools, applications, websites, social media platforms, and email safely, appropriately, and effectively to access better information, assess it and share it. This set of skills encourages individuals to use different technologies safely. It also increases our knowledge and awareness of the risks we face online and can provide us with accurate information and instructions on trusted websites, as well as methods of assessing the credibility and safety of a website or online platform. 


We all require these 21st-century skills in order to be active and productive members of our local society and the global community and to able to face with confidence the challenges of this century. Therefore, we must be very attentive and careful and ensure online safety and security for us, our families, and our communities. 


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