For nearly thirty years, Canadian teachers have been at the forefront of getting students online and preparing them to use networked technologies safely, productively and responsibly. Many young Canadians have their first experiences with the internet in their classrooms and school libraries. Over the past decade, though, while digital tools have come to provide new opportunities for creating and distributing digital content, MediaSmarts’ research shows that most Canadian teachers aren’t making media in the classroom.
Parents could be forgiven for thinking that our children are born media literate. They are mediatized, certainly, even before they are born: it’s a rare baby shower that doesn’t feature Elsa or Elmo in one form or another. As for digital literacy, kids take to devices like the proverbial ducks to water, quickly becoming expert at finding the videos and games they want.
We’re living in a strange and uncertain time. Already, as parents, we’re feeling our way to the right set of rules and guidelines for screens and social media. But now that we’re facing an extended time of quarantine and social distancing, the rules are bending and changing every day.
My daughter – age 14 – is all about Instagram. It’s her primary source of entertainment: if she’s on her phone, she’s likely looking at memes or laughing at silly posts made by her friends. It’s also the main way she communicates with them, as they use its messaging service much more than things like texting or video chat.
In its early days, the internet was often spoken of as a free marketplace of ideas, where everyone’s views and thoughts could be shared and compete on an equal footing. Today it’s an essential tool for accessing information and services, but its value as a vehicle of civic engagement and debate has in many ways declined.