In fact, a Common Sense Media study from 2018 found that teens are more likely to say social media has a positive rather than a negative effect on how they feel, with 25 percent of teens saying it makes them feel less lonely, and 20 percent saying it makes them feel more confident.[i] Similarly, a study from the Pew Internet Research Center found that 57 percent of teens have met a new friend online and that these friendships are strengthened and challenged through social media.[ii]
However, one-third of students from the YCWW study also reported having threatened or been mean or cruel to someone online[iii] and almost 70 percent of teens from the Common Sense Media study said they have felt excluded or left out when using social media.[iv] The Pew study, meanwhile, found that 21 percent of “teens report feeling worse about their own life because of what they see from other friends on social media.”[v]
What this suggests is that while youth generally recognize that they have certain responsibilities online – particularly to their friends – they need more guidance than they’re getting about how to act ethically online. Research done by MediaSmarts and other organizations suggests that young people do pay attention to the messages they get from parents, teachers and community leaders about ethical behaviour, but if they don’t get the instruction they need – and if it doesn’t keep pace with how their moral thinking develops as they get older – they take their cues from peers or popular media instead.
This section introduces important concepts that impact our ethical behaviour such as ethical development, empathy and laws, rules and personal morality. Then we explore how these ethical concepts affect the ways that young people behave online as well as the opportunities they represent for developing digital and media literacy skills.
[i] (2018). Social Media Social Life: Teens reveal their experiences. Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/social-media-social-life-infographic
[ii] Lenhart, A (2015) Teens, Technology and Friendship. Pew Research Centre. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/08/06/teens-technology-and-friendships/
[iii] Steeves, V. (2014) Young Canadians in a Wired World, Phase III: Cyberbullying: Dealing with Online Meanness, Cruelty and Threats. MediaSmarts. Retrieved from http://mediasmarts.ca/ycww/cyberbullying-dealing-online-meanness-cruelty-threats
[iv] (2018). Social Media Social Life: Teens reveal their experiences. Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/social-media-social-life-infographic
[v] Lenhart, A (2015) Teens, Technology and Friendship. Pew Research Centre. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/08/06/teens-technology-and-friendships/
Resources for Parents
Resources for Teachers
Resources for Youth
Think before you share
Do the Right Thing
Stay on the Path
Stay on the Path: Teaching Kids to be Safe and Ethical Online is a series of resources that aims to promote and encourage ethical online behaviours with young people. The resources include a four-lesson unit on search skills and critical thinking; a self-directed tutorial that examines the moral dilemmas that kids face in their online activities and strategies for helping youth deal with them; and three tip sheets for parents on how to teach kids to be safe and ethical online.