I had a really interesting conversation with my 14-year-old daughter recently. She was wondering why so many adults assume that teenagers are all the same: a bunch of lazy, self-involved jokers who are glued to their devices all day. I didn’t have an answer for her, really, only that people tend to generalize, and that this is Never a Good Thing, no matter who it is we’re talking about.
It goes without saying that eight years is a long time on the Internet. Between 2005, when MediaSmarts published Phase II of our Young Canadians in a Wired World research, and 2013, when we conducted the national student survey for Phase III, the Internet changed almost beyond recognition: online video, once slow and buggy, became one of the most popular activities on the Web, while social networking became nearly universal among both youth and adults. Young people’s online experiences have changed as well, so we surveyed 5,436 Canadian students in grades 4 through 11, in classrooms in every province and territory, to find out how.
With the launch of the Xbox One in November, 2013 has finally finished giving birth to the newest generation of video game consoles. Wii U, PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Xbox One are sure to be on many children’s wish lists for the holidays this year, but these new consoles are anything but child’s play. Far from being simple machines for playing video games, these new consoles are more connected to the Internet than ever and have lots of new social features.
The theme of this year’s Media Literacy Week, “What’s Being Sold: Helping Kids Make Sense of Marketing Messages” is one I personally feel strongly about. After all, I’ve spent my entire career working in all aspects of marketing and communications. At the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), I’m responsible for the department filled with people who are experts in advertising and communications, social media and public relations.
Snapchat, the mobile app that lets users send “self-destructing” photos, has the distinction of being the only digital tool that does not have a single redeeming feature. While the moral panic associated with blogs, cell phones, social networks and online games has largely faded in grudging recognition of their more positive uses (indeed, research shows that many parents have actually helped their children lie about their age register for Facebook accounts), Snapchat is seen as the Q-tip of the digital age: its sole function is to do the thing that you’re warned not to do on the box.
We generally think of our kids’ online and offline lives as being two separate things. In reality, they constantly overlap, flowing back and forth face-to-face in the schoolyard and through texts and social networks at home. But on the Internet there are lots of moral and ethical choices that don’t have to be made offline.
I’ve already written about YouTube and Instagram, but today I wanted to share some information about four other popular sites and apps that are on my radar right now: Snapchat, Vine, Tumblr and ask.fm.
My last post here was about balancing screen time over the summer months. This is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought, and I can summarize my feelings on the matter this way: my personal aim is to decrease the amount of time that my kids consume utter dreck**, and balance other free time with good quality viewing that we can enjoy as a family.