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. The same is true of many popular online environments: Facebook, once restricted to university students, is now just as popular with teenagers (indeed, recent research has shown that one in five 8 to 12 year-olds in the UK has a Facebook account, though the Terms of Service theoretically require you to be 13 or older). Whether it’s social networking, Wikipedia or iTunes, the Internet is tailor-made for teens: an intensely social environment that nevertheless feels intimate, providing constant stimulation and instant results. Unfortunately, for the most part teens receive little instruction in using the Internet, and most of what is taught is specific technical skills rather than how to critically engage with online media and use the Internet wisely and ethically. One obstacle to teaching digital literacy skills is the assumption that teenagers already know them, and there is no question that they are tremendously fluent in their use of online tools and environments – but fluency is not literacy, any more than a tenth-grader fluent in English knows how to write a competent paragraph without being taught.
Intended for girls in grades 7-9, Half Girl, Half Face explores many of the online image issues teenage girls may encounter when they use digital media – particularly social networks.
In this lesson, students learn about the concept of “time capsules” and then apply the idea by selecting time capsule contents to represent both the time they live in and their own lives and tastes. They then extend this idea to online content, making a “time capsule” of any online content connected to them. Younger students finish the lesson by creating a group Internet time capsule, while older students finish by considering what online content they might like to remove or keep out of their “time capsules.”