MediaSmarts is partnering with Facebook Canada to help Canadians become better informed readers in the digital age. False online content isn’t a new problem, and it’s not unique to Facebook, but it is up to all of us to fight it. Many of us lack the search, authentication and critical thinking skills we need to find accurate information online and to recognize false or misleading content. That’s why MediaSmarts has partnered with Facebook to help build the authentication skills of all Canadians.

In ancient times the Olympics were a time when all nations – all Greek nations, anyway – would put away their differences and compete in almost every human activity, from poetry to the ferocious no-rules wrestling event called pankration. Being the very best that humans could be was seen as the best way to honour the gods of Olympus. Though we’ve dropped the poetry and the blood sports, people watching the swimming or volleyball events might wonder if we’re on the way to bringing back the ancient tradition of competing in the nude. Revealing outfits – like those designed by Lululemon for the Canadian beach volleyball team – may be practical for those events, but they also shine a light on how dressing for sports can make us feel about ourselves. After all, it’s hard to feel good about your own body when you’ve just spent an hour watching the most perfect physiques in the world nearly naked.

Joe McGinniss’ book The Selling of the President had a shocking title for 1968, suggesting as it did that in the television age the presidency had become nothing more than another product to be packaged and sold. MediaSmarts’ resource, Watching the Elections (a lesson for Grades 8-12), shines a light on how the different aspects of an election – from the debates to political ads to the candidates themselves – are actually media products.

Someone encountering the Internet for the first time might be forgiven for assuming it was created specifically for teenagers. Indeed, the Internet could reasonably be said to have been aging backwards since its birth – the domain first of scientists and the military, then of university students in the 1990s and now children and teenagers. 

If anyone still doubts that youth need to learn how to evaluate online information, those doubts should have been dispelled by a recent hoax perpetrated by the group called the Yes Men. This group, which has a history of staging fake press conferences, decided to draw attention to Canada’s position at the Copenhagen conference on climate change by creating a number of fake Web sites purporting to be, among others, the Copenhagen summit site, the Wall Street Journal, and Environment Canada’s site. While it didn’t take long for Environment Canada to make a statement exposing the hoax, by that time many journalists had reported the story as fact and the story had been widely distributed by wire services.

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