Note: this is the fifth in a series of blogs looking at the history and future of Web 2.0. The user-participation culture of Web 2.0 has begun to change the worlds of music, movies, animation, games and even encyclopedias, but in no area does the change promise to be as deep and fundamental as in the world of news. While other aspects of user-created content blur the line between authors and audiences, the line remains there: it still takes tremendous skill and effort to make a mashup or a fan movie, even if Web 2.0 has made those things easier to distribute. Some have suggested, though, that it will change journalism in a much more radical way – perhaps altering our idea of what journalism is entirely.
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.”
The old saying that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer applies to cyberspace, too: these maps comparing router and population density show that the developing world has a long way to go to catch up to North America, Western Europe and Japan when it comes to getting online. The One Laptop Per Child project aims to change all that, designing, constructing and distributing Internet-ready laptops to children in developing countries.
There has been a lot of discussion in the past couple years among scientists, the public health community and the media about the impact of smoking and tobacco images in movies.
It’s important to pay close attention to what children see in the news because studies have shown that kids are more afraid of violence in news coverage than in any other media content. By creating a proper perspective and context for news and current events programs, we can help kids develop the critical thinking skills they need to understand news stories and the news industry.
The intense media coverage that accompanies traumatic events, such as war, acts of terrorism and natural disasters, can be very disturbing for children and teens. Certain young people are particularly vulnerable and some can be seriously distressed simply by watching TV replays of such events.
Parents, educators, health practitioners and others who work with kids can help to lessen anxieties arising from the coverage of catastrophic events.
In the same way that Canadian news reporting does not reflect Canada’s multiculturalism, racial diversity ‘behind the scenes’ of news media is similarly disproportionate. In 2006, fewer than 6 per cent of CBC employees were visible minorities.  A 2000 study from the University of Laval suggests that more than 97 per cent of Canadian journalists are White. 
Political and constitutional issues, forest fires, poverty, sexual abuse and drug addiction appear to be the only topics relating to Aboriginal communities that are reported in the news. Coverage of cultural activities may be found now and again in local media, but you have to pay close attention to find this.
One of the biggest concerns voiced by parents of young Internet users is the easy access to pornography that the Web provides. There are millions of porn sites online, making hardcore sexual images that were once very difficult to obtain now just a click away.