Children and youth who use the Internet are highly attuned to surveillance practices.  Research conducted by MediaSmarts demonstrates that for young Canadians surveillance is part of everyday life. While youth once considered the Internet to be a private space where they and their peers could play, communicate, and experiment, these attitudes have largely disappeared: on the contrary, youth now regard the Internet as a completely monitored space.  This surveillance of youth is primarily conducted by parents, teachers/schools, and corporations.
Children and youth are a huge potential market for corporations.
There is a common misconception that youth are not concerned with privacy. On the contrary, though, there is significant evidence to suggest that privacy is a major concern among youth, particularly when it comes to their actions online.  As a result of this concern, young Canadians have developed a wide range of techniques to resist surveillance or negotiate their own privacy.
Contrary to the popular beliefs of many adults, youth do care about their privacy.
Schools are fully aware that the Internet is a treasure trove of knowledge and don’t hesitate to recommend it for research. According to a 2008 study, 77 per cent of teachers assign work involving the use of the Internet. Unfortunately, school curriculums rarely include teaching how to do research on the Web, so parents need to learn the skills for guiding their children as they go online for school assignments.
Internationally, a wide range of legislation has been developed in order to manage and protect individual’s personal information. Canada’s public and private sector are governed separately in terms of privacy protection.
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?