As we consume the troubling news of the past few weeks, we have all seen that there are so many issues we’re dealing with in our digital world that have real life impacts: the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories, the proliferation of racist stereotypes, online hate and prejudice, and the attacks on journalists and freedom of the press.

Guest post by Dr. Chris Dornan, former Associate Professor Carleton University School of Journalism & Communication

This is a transcript of a presentation by Dr. Chris Dornan on October 28, 2021 as part of MediaSmarts Presents The Walrus Talks: Our Digital Lives (a Media Literacy Week event).

Matthew JohnsonMeet Sasha. At age 8, she’s a real social butterfly, both online and off, and is very concerned with how the world sees her: she spends a lot of time making sure she looks good in photos online but doesn’t always think twice about who might see them. Violet is Sasha’s older sister and her polar opposite: she’s a hardcore gamer, and just as tough as her Level 65 Barbarian. Though she despairs of her sister sometimes, she’s also fiercely protective of her and will unleash her considerable wrath on anyone she thinks is picking on Sasha.

Matthew JohnsonParents 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.

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.

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