Despite all of the concerns about what youth are doing with digital media, MediaSmarts’ study Young Canadians in a Wireless 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.
As we grow, we pass through distinct stages of moral development in which our ethical thinking is based on different principles: the desire to avoid punishment (Stage I) and the desire to obtain rewards (Stage II), which are then followed by a wish to fit in and conform in order please others (Stage III) and a duty to follow rules, laws and social codes (Stage IV). Last comes the sense of participating in a social contract (Stage V) and, finally, a morality that looks to universal ethical principles of justice and the equality and dignity of all people (Stage VI).
Empathy is at the heart of ethics. In order to develop a sense of right and wrong that goes past just being afraid of punishment or hoping for a reward, we have to be able to put ourselves in another person’s shoes.
It’s important to make young people aware of the laws that apply to what they do online, as well as to have household rules that cover online behaviour.
With younger children, the best approach is to have a clear and consistent set of rules, both at home and at school, about sharing other people’s content.