One of the most common ethical decisions kids face online relates to how they access and use content like music, games and videos. We can help kids make better choices by teaching them about the issue: in one study, one-quarter of young people said that they would stop accessing content illegally if it was more clear what was legal and what wasn’t.
This section introduces important concepts that impact our ethical behaviour such as ethical development, empathy and laws, rules and personal morality. Then we explore how these ethical concepts affect the ways that young people behave online as well as the opportunities they represent for developing digital literacy skills.
Despite all of the concerns about what youth are doing with digital media, MediaSmarts’ study Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) has found that not only are most kids not getting in trouble online, they’re often being actively kind and thoughtful towards people they know.
This guide offers adults teachers, parents, coaches, community leaders and youth mentors engaging activities to support the online TELUS WISE footprint challenge. The guide also includes extension activities for the comic strips in the activity book.
In this lesson, students are introduced to the idea that “hot” emotional states such as anger or excitement can make it harder for them to control how they act. They also discuss the concept of empathy and look at the ways in which digital communication can make it harder to feel empathy for other people. Students then read scenarios that portray two sides of an online conflict and consider how to resolve them, using their discussion to build a list of tools for emotional management and conflict resolution online. Finally, students create a media product that explains and reminds them of one of those tools.
In this lesson, students consider how we come to hold values and how they affect our behaviour, especially online. They begin by comparing their assumptions about how common positive and negative online behaviours are with accurate statistics, and then consider how believing that something is more or less common than it really is can affect whether or not we think it’s acceptable. The teacher then uses a fable to introduce students to the ways that values can be communicated both overtly and implicitly and students discuss the ways in which their values have been communicated to them. They then turn specifically to the online context and consider what values they have learned about online behaviour and how they learned them. Finally, students consider scenarios that examine ethical questions online and role-play ways of resolving them.
As we grow, we pass through distinct stages of moral development in which our ethical thinking is based on different principles. The second stage in learning ethics is becoming aware of rules that either punish or reward us for doing something: younger children are most motivated by a fear of being punished for bad behaviour, but become more concerned with the rewards of good behaviour as they get older.
How can we help young people develop affective empathy? The best approach depends on how old they are. Children begin to understand empathy as toddlers, but at this stage they are so completely “in the moment” that the best approach is to watch out for situations where we can model and talk about empathy with them. When a child does something or witnesses something that makes somebody feel sad, quietly explain to them how and why it made them feel that way. (It can be valuable to do this with other emotions, such as fear and happiness, as well.)