It’s been almost fifteen years since Mark Prensky coined the term “digital native” to describe young people who have grown up with the Internet and digital media. In fact, the children who were born the year Prensky’s book was published are now in high school. While for many, the public perception of young people taking to digital platforms like ducks to water persists – accompanied by the image of adults, particularly parents, who are seen (often by themselves) as hopelessly out of their depth – the question remains how close that image is to reality. Are Canadian youth truly digitally literate? And if they are not “digital natives” who effortlessly acquire their skills on their own or from peers, are students learning what they need from their parents or teachers?
Sexting is most likely to have negative consequences when the person sending the sext has been pressured into doing it.
It is natural for adolescents to be curious about sex: MediaSmarts’ research suggests that one in ten grades 7- 11 students use the Internet to look for information about sexuality. Forty percent of boys look for pornography online, with 28% looking for it daily or weekly. The problem with pornography is that it is an unhealthy response to a healthy concern.
It’s hard to think of a recent digital technology issue that’s captured the public imagination more than sexting. This may be because it combines elements of the classic moral panic with more modern “technopanic,” provoking worries not just about the morality of our children – and, in particular, young girls – but also about the possible effects of technology on how we grow, think and behave. As with most panics, of course, the issue is substantially more complicated and less sensational than we perceive it to be, and while it’s unlikely that our worries about sexting will ever seem in retrospect to be as absurd as our grandparents’ fears about crime comics, MediaSmarts’ new data shows that many of our beliefs and assumptions on the subject need closer examination.
There’s a long-standing relationship between sex and the Internet. As far as back the 1980s, Usenet and local bulletin board systems were used to share pornographic text files and crude (in both senses) graphics, and people have been using digital media to form and carry out online relationships at least as long. However, just as estimates of how much online traffic and content is made up of sexual material tend to be exaggerated, our new report – Sexuality and Romantic Relationships in the Digital Age – from MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wired World survey of 5,436 students, shows that for Canadian youth, sexuality and romantic relationships play a fairly small part of their online lives.
Recent research has shown that not all youth are equally at risk online, nor are all online activities equally risky. Rather, there are certain characteristics and online activities that could be considered risk markers – indications that someone is likely to take risks online and fall victim to online sexual solicitation. Many of these markers are the same as those used in the identification of at-risk youth; in general, the same youth are at risk online as offline.
TV, music and movies have been a central part of young people’s lives for generations, and the Internet has only intensified that by delivering all of those directly to our homes – legally and illegally.
You may not realize it, but you have a lot of power when you’re online: you can cheer people up, make them laugh, and help to make your school, your town or even the whole world a better place. The flip side is that what you do can make things worse, too. That’s why you have to think about what you say and do online, and try your best to do the right thing.
Doing the right thing online mostly comes down to the three R’s of respect: respect people’s privacy, respect people’s feelings and respect people’s property.
Children are exposed to many unrealistic images of both men’s and women’s bodies through media. TV shows, music videos, ads, movies, video games, and even social networks can communicate ideas about what their bodies “should” look like. Techniques for manipulating images – from old-fashioned techniques like airbrushing to modern technologies like Photoshop – even make it possible for media images to go beyond what’s possible in reality.
There are five key ideas that help kids think critically about media. You can start to make your kids aware of these concepts almost as soon as they start asking you questions!