On November 5, 2009, MNet Media Education Specialist Matthew Johnson participated in the Association of Canadian Studies’ conference Knowing Ourselves: The Challenge of Teaching History of Canadian Official Minority Language Communities, speaking on the topic Media, Diversity and Our History. What follows is an expanded version of his remarks.
For parents, this time of year can feel like walking through a minefield, with ads, decorations and music all aimed at getting kids excited about Christmas. Every year children eagerly ask Santa for the “hottest,” “must-have” toys – and then turn that “pester power” on their parents.
On Saturday, September 26, 2009, the US network Nickelodeon did something unusual: it switched itself off. This was in observance of the “Worldwide Day of Play,” an event Nickelodeon inaugurated in 2004. The network – along with its sister channels Noggin, the N, and Nicktoons, and their associated Web sites – went dark for three hours to encourage its young viewers to “ride a bike, do a dance, kick a ball, skate a board, jump a rope, swing a swing, climb a wall, run a race, do ANYTHING that gets you up and playing!”
As media outlets continue to close and advertising budgets shrink, the once-mighty Super Bowl is receiving much less buzz than usual. A number of major advertisers, such as Federal Express and troubled automaker General Motors, have decided not to run Super Bowl ads at all this year. Another January event, though, is attracting a surprising amount of media attention: the U.S. presidential inauguration.
The Association to Reduce Alcohol Promotion in Ontario is accepting submissions for the ARAPO Recognition Award until Friday, February 29th. (Yes, it’s a leap year.) In the words of their Guiding Statement, the award is for “recognition of individuals (e.g. journalist, teacher, student etc.) or organizations (e.g. schools, businesses) that have made, and continue to make, outstanding efforts to reduce the effect of alcohol promotion in Ontario.” Nominations must be made jointly in writing by two or more members of the community, following a format you can find here.
February 10th is Safer Internet Day, an event sponsored by Insafe to promote safe and responsible online behaviour. As the Internet becomes a more and more central part of our lives, we are coming to a better understanding of just what risks and opportunities it provides. We are learning, for instance, that youth are less likely to be victimized by adult strangers than by other youth, whether it is in the form of sexual solicitation or online harassment: a recent study by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, prepared for the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States, supports other recent research in finding that it is the particular behaviours that some youth consciously engage in that place them at risk – and that not all youth are equally at risk.
Today is Safer Internet Day, an annual international event sponsored by Insafe to promote a safer Internet for children. Recent research on Internet life has shown that the greatest threat to kids online comes from kids themselves, both in the form of risky behaviour and online harassment, or cyber bullying. Cyber bullying can take forms such as harassing e-mails or text messages, social exclusion and spreading private photos and videos, among others, and presents a particular challenge for parents and teachers because it often happens outside the home or classroom. Because the Internet has become an essential part of kids’ social lives, cyber bullying can also have more devastating effects as youth feel they have no escape.
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.
Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker article “Small Change” has set the blogosphere buzzing with its strongly stated argument that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter will not usher in a new age of social activism, as some digital evangelists have proposed, but that they and the relationships they foster are actually detrimental to real social change. As Gladwell puts it, “The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo.”
For the last 3 years, we’ve been asking young people across the US and Canada to tell us in 2 minutes or less their stories about safe, responsible technology use. They’ve responded with enthusiasm and creativity; they’ve entertained and moved us. This year, the What’s Your Story? video contest continues in the same format that’s worked so well so far. But we’ve changed a few things, hopefully for the better.