Ontario Health Curriculum K-8: Media and Digital Literacy Connections
Media and communications technology play an important role in a student’s health and physical education, for better or for worse. The new Ontario Health and Physical Education curriculum provides a spring board to start discussions related to health and media literacy.
Whether it’s to prepare for the future job market or just to manage the lives they already lead online, young Canadians need to be digitally literate. But what exactly is digital literacy, and how can we ensure that all Canadian youth are learning the digital skills they need?
For most youth, the Internet is all about socializing and while most of these social interactions are positive, increasing numbers of kids are using the technology to intimidate and harass others – a phenomenon known as cyberbullying.
The last few weeks have shed an unprecedented light on the use of digital media to spread and inspire hatred. Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the perpetrator in the attacks on Canada’s National War Memorial and Parliament buildings, appears to have been motivated in part by exposure to online postings by a self-described member of the Islamic state, and the Federal government has already stated that it intends to create tools to remove online content that promotes the “proliferation of terrorism.”
As the Internet has become more and more central to our lives, our online and offline identities have become less and less separate. Where the Internet was once a place where nobody knew we were dogs and we lived Second Lives as customizable avatars, today we mostly surf the Web as ourselves.
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.
Building Empathy in Children and Teens - Tip Sheet
How can we help young people develop affective empathy? The best approach depends on how old they are. Children begin to understand empathy as toddlers, but at this stage they are so completely “in the moment” that the best approach is to watch out for situations where we can model and talk about empathy with them. When a child does something or witnesses something that makes somebody feel sad, quietly explain to them how and why it made them feel that way. (It can be valuable to do this with other emotions, such as fear and happiness, as well.)
In this lesson, students consider how we come to hold values and how they affect our behaviour, especially online. They begin by comparing their assumptions about how common positive and negative online behaviours are with accurate statistics, and then consider how believing that something is more or less common than it really is can affect whether or not we think it’s acceptable. The teacher then uses a fable to introduce students to the ways that values can be communicated both overtly and implicitly and students discuss the ways in which their values have been communicated to them. They then turn specifically to the online context and consider what values they have learned about online behaviour and how they learned them. Finally, students consider scenarios that examine ethical questions online and role-play ways of resolving them.
Despite all of the concerns about what youth are doing with digital media, MediaSmarts’ study Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) has found that not only are most kids not getting in trouble online, they’re often being actively kind and thoughtful towards people they know.