EQ, IQ and now DQ

By Sally Evans

So, we have all heard of IQ (Intelligence Quotient), which is an attempt to measure intelligence and refers to quickness of mental comprehension (or mental agility). And then came, EQ (Emotional intelligence), the capability of individuals to recognise their own and other people’s emotions, discern between different feelings and label them appropriately; to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.

Well now comes DQ (Digital Intelligence Quotient); a collection of social, emotional and cognitive abilities that help someone deal with the demands of living a digital life. So, this is new to me too, so I thought it made sense to look into it.

According to the DQ Institute, they define having DQ as ‘the necessary knowledge, skills and ability to adapt our emotions and adjust our behaviour to deal with the challenges and demands of the digital era. Beyond knowledge, these abilities must be rooted in human values of integrity, respect, empathy and prudence. These values enable the wise and responsible use of technology – an attribute which will mark the leaders of tomorrow’.

It is a way of describing how we communicate and act online, and how those behaviours result in a variety of outcomes we in turn, view or read about daily. Protection of our private information, how much we know about the devices we use and how we behave with each other online, all play a part to determine our DQ level. At this stage, I was guessing that whilst my IQ is ok and my EQ has got a lot better, my DQ has some way to go!

What we do know, is that the impact of technology in society is widespread and accelerating. As its volume grows exponentially, experts predict that 90% of the entire population will be connected to the internet within 10 years. Ten years ago, tech savvy meant having an email address! Today Facebook records a billion daily active accounts and the battle for social media dominance is underway. These changes herald exciting possibilities. But they also create uncertainty and our children are at the centre of this dynamic change.

So how is DQ measured?

According to DQproject.org, a number of different elements make up DQ and when I first came across the concept, I was astounded by what I did and didn’t know. DQ consists of elements such as:

Digital Identity – Determines your presence online and knowing the impact of your actions.
Digital Use – Knowledge about the devices and media you control and balancing online with offline.
Digital Safety – Knowledge of how to manage risks online (imagine things like cyberbullying).
Digital Security – Knowledge of cyber threats (hacking, scams, malware) and using security.
Digital EQ – Being empathetic and how we build good relationships online. 
Digital Communication – Communicating and collaborating with others online.
Digital Literacy – Knowledge of finding, evaluating, utilizing, sharing and creating content as well as computational thinking.
Digital Rights – Ability to understand and uphold personal and legal rights. (privacy, intellectual property, freedom of speech and protection from hate speech.)

Whilst I like to think I have a reasonable IQ, based on this list, I’m not sure I measure up with a high DQ!

Values are the key.

There is a view that a high DQ is only possible if supported by positive core values, like integrity, respect, empathy and caution. Given many children (and lots of adults too) see more screen time than faces these days, it is critical these values are embraced early on to give our children a framework to operate within and some control over technology rather than the other way around.

Low DQ may indicate someone who has difficulty identifying malicious behaviour aimed at them or in the case of parents, not able to spot digital ‘red flags’ of children drawn to a darker side of technology. It suggests a lack of tech savviness whether in knowledge, values or behaviour.

So why does it matter?

We know children will adopt new technologies faster and often find unintended uses of that technology much quicker than we realise! They are naturally sharp in this area as they have been born into this technological age. Being able to spot nefarious activity is only one aspect. As a society, we need to perhaps be more aware of the impact of the Digital Age Gap. Children use technology very differently from adults. This gap exposes the risks and threats that make it difficult for parents and educators to prepare our children to avert unacceptable behaviour (whilst enjoying the benefits of being digital).

What can we do?

Maybe us grownups need to think of increasing our DQ as we would approach getting a drivers’ licence? We need to be curious to understand these new developments and if we are in business, training or education, seek out qualified facilitators to introduce programmes in business, schools and communities that offer learning and training to children, parents, educators and employees. This is transferable knowledge that is relevant in both our personal and professional lives. IQ, EQ and DQ all cross those boundaries.

I’m just learning more about this area, so please join in the discussion with a comment if this topic interests you or you are working in this area.


Sally is the Founder of LifeBuddy. She is an Organisational Development consultant and is a Practitioner with the Association for Business Psychology.