This blog was written by Samantha McAleese and three youth participants – Sahil, Erin, and Kate (pseudonyms used to maintain anonymity).
Reflections on Conducting Qualitative Research During a Pandemic
What comes to mind when you hear the word algorithm? Can you explain how machine learning works? Do you have any privacy or data collection concerns regarding the increased reliance on artificial intelligence? These are just a few of the questions that we asked young people in our recent qualitative research project Algorithmic Awareness: Conversations with Young Canadians about Artificial Intelligence and Privacy. From November 2020 to January 2021, we facilitated eight focus groups with 22 youth ages 13 to 17, where we combined game-based learning with discussion and reflection to gain insight into how young Canadians understand the relationship between artificial intelligence, algorithms, and privacy.
Cyber Choices is an interactive game designed to help students in grades 3 to 5 develop the skills and habits they need to make safe and responsible choices online. Cyber Choices lets students explore four different stories that cover key issues such as making good choices about their own and others’ personal information, dealing with cyberbullying (as both a target and a witness) and managing online conflict.
It’s something we’ve all done before: scrolled past a wall of text to click “I Agree” with no idea what we’ve agreed to. Then, when we’re using the platform, messages like “We’ve made some changes to our Terms and Conditions” simply remind us that we probably didn’t read them in the first place. Our world is becoming more and more influenced by the data that’s being collected about us. For young people in particular, this can lead to serious and unexpected consequences that could affect their entire lives.
The other day I was on the phone with my sister – our land line, not a cell phone – and I said to her, “You’re my person.” This is a well-known phrase from the TV show Grey’s Anatomy; Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang used to say it to each other to cement the closeness of their friendship.
In this lesson, students examine a fictional social network profile to learn how online platforms collect data about their users. They then read an article that explains how platforms use this data and explores some of the issues this raises. Finally, they create a mind map of their own online data profile and reflect on how the data they post may be collected and used by others.
I read an interesting Facebook post the other day, written by a teenaged girl. She said quite firmly that it was important for parents to not have their children’s passwords, for their phone or social media accounts. She talked about building trust and how insisting on knowing your kids’ passwords is the first step to them sneaking around online and getting involved in things you wish they wouldn’t.
I admit I was hoping to never get an email like this from the school:
“Some students in your child’s class have been involved in inappropriate online behaviour. Our Student Resource Officer will be doing a presentation on cyberbullying and leading a discussion about responsible actions on the internet. Please speak to your child about his/her activity online.”
Recently, my nephew, age 12, received a letter in the mail. It was addressed to him personally, by name. Inside was a photocopied article about the powers of a new virility medicine, complete with the usual graphic promises for pleasuring the ladies. The article mentioned a specific “doctor” by name, but other than that, there was no contact information or order form or any other action request. It appeared to just be spam but in paper form.
It’s because I rely on them to play secretary for me when I’m driving. If the phone rings or there is a bing of a text, 99% of the time it’s a member of my immediate family trying to get in touch with something relatively pressing.