Ages and Stages
During late adolescence life settles down for many teenagers. As they reconcile family and peer values and anticipate their lives as young adults, they make important decisions about future careers and lifestyles. During this period, teens:
- become more intellectually mature and are ready to interact with the world on an intellectual level
- are idealistic
- are open to new ideas, but may lack the life experience to judge their validity
- need both group identity and independence
- experience a sense of omnipotence/immortality
- are selective and discriminating in terms of relationships
- may experience pressure to experiment with sex
- may experience stress as they prepare for post-secondary education/employment
15- to 17-Year-Olds and Media
It is at this age that many young people define their sexual identity, become sexually active or experience pressure to become sexually active. Given adult sensitivity on this topic, teens may turn to media portrayals of sex as models for sexual relationships. Portrayals of sex in advertising, music videos, movies and television often reinforce the idea that "everyone is doing it," while negating the risks, consequences or issues associated with sexual activity.
Members of this group:
- seek out entertainment that reflects teen subcultures rather than the culture of their parents
- are more critical and selective in their media consumption
- consider listening to music and watching television as favourite media-related activities
- enjoy watching videos and going to movies
- list music and television as significant influences on their lives (after upbringing, willpower, parents, friends and personality traits)
- are likely to have confidence in the reliability of news and newspapers
A 2001 survey by MediaSmarts provides a snapshot of how young people in this age group use the Internet.
- The Internet is popular with teens, but still falls behind television and music.
- Sending and receiving e-mail, downloading software, games, or music and instant messaging are the three top online activities.
- Teens believe the Internet to be an effective tool for finding information and actively use search engines.
- Instant messaging and online chat remain popular activities for girls.
- Most have e-mail accounts.
- Most have visited chat rooms, with half participating in adult chat rooms or private chat.
- Boys are likely to have visited explicit adult sites.
Compared to younger ages, fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds:
- are more likely to receive unwanted sexual comments
- receive the highest percentage of pornographic spam
- are more likely to be asked for a real life meeting by an online acquaintance and more likely to accept the offer
(Source: Young Canadians In A Wired World Survey, MediaSmarts, 2001)
Educational Resources Online
Online resources for this age group include:
- activist websites
- Websites that provide reliable information about health and sexuality, such as Health Canada's site and sexualityandu.ca: http://www.sexualityandu.ca
- college and university websites
- career-planning websites
- online tools such as dictionaries, encyclopedias and thesauruses
- Websites that track online hoaxes, viruses and misinformation
- Sites that provide raw information (such as Canadian statues, statistics, corporate minutes, institutional reports)
- Sites that provide interpretation of information and editorial comment
- Websites that fight hate and promote tolerance (for example, Tolerance.org: http://www.tolerance.org/)
- courses and tutorials
- Websites created by and for teens that promote "youth civic media" and dialogue (for example The Diary Project: http://www.diaryproject.comhttp://www.diaryproject.com, UNICEF's Voices of Youth: http://www.unicef.org/voy/)
Online issues that should be addressed with this age group include:
- teen participation in fringe subcultures
- direct counterculture marketing for products, including tobacco and alcohol
- open, indiscriminate sharing of information
- perception that laws don't apply in cyberspace
- tension between freedom of speech and offensive Web content (i.e. hate and pornography)
- existence of online content that promotes hatred and intolerance and recruitment by online hate propagators
- aggressive and manipulative collection of teens' personal information by marketers
- heavy cross-marketing (such as advertisements on television or in magazines that promote product-related Web sites)
- use of chat and "blogs" - online diaries - by marketers to promote products
Educational Response: Teaching critical thinking skills
This is the time to:
- online privacy laws and practices
- evaluation of quality of online information – especially information about sexuality and health
- advertising and broadcast standards
- online content standards
- teen culture on the Internet
- safety guidelines for real-life meetings with online acquaintances
- tension between freedom of speech and offensive Web content
- legal framework governing content (for example, libel, hate crime, obscenity laws)
- human rights concerns relating to the Internet (such as access to technology as a human right, privacy as a human right, online hate, online pornography)
- nature of the electronic community
- nature of online identity
- potential of online democracy
- government's use of the Internet to provide information to and collect information about citizens
- impact of technology on communication, the individual and society
- online infomercials (for example, commercial websites that blend health information with product information, such as Clearasil's acne website)
- media images of gender and race
Resources from the MediaSmarts website for getting started
Authenticating Web Site Information
Information packages for students in grades 8-10 that includes questions and activities about Web environments
- Deconstructing Web Pages
A lesson in which students apply the five W's of cyberspace to sources of information they find online
- Hoax? Scholarly Research? Personal Opinion? You Decide!
A lesson designed to help students determine the validity of information presented to them on the Internet
- ICYousee – A Lesson in Critical Thinking
A lesson in which students follow a Web-based template to analyze Web resources
- Internet Checklist for Teens (PDF)
A checklist of safe, wise and responsible Internet use for teens between 13 and 17
- Thinking About Hate
A lesson in which students develop critical-thinking skills to authenticate online information and to recognize bias and hate on the Internet
- Who Knows? Your Privacy in the Information Age
A lesson that encourages students to explore issues relating to privacy through a series of activities, surveys and quizzes
This section explains why information privacy is an issue, and how the Internet and electronic commerce have created challenges for the protection of personal information. It also provides information about Canadian and international guidelines that address the collection, use and storage of personal information.
- Online Hate
This section explores the ways in which hate-mongers use the Internet to promote their agenda, examines the line between hate speech and free speech, provides an overview of relevant legislation and voluntary industry codes, and suggests ways in which to safeguard children and teens. It is also the place to find seminal articles and the latest reports and surveys on the above issues.
Additional information used with permission from:
Lefebvre, A., and Hillis, B. (1999). Taking Your Kids Online. McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd.: Toronto.
Bibby, R. (2001). Canada's Teens: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow. Stoddard Publishing Co.: Toronto.
Josephson W. (1995.) Television Violence: A Review of the Effects on Children of Different Ages. Report prepared for the Department of Canadian Heritage.