This post is a revisit of a topic previously shared on GirlGuidesCANblog as it relates to Media Literacy Week, November 5 -9. This year’s theme is Privacy Matters, and shines a spotlight on the privacy knowledge and skills that youth need for their online activities. —————————————————————————————————–
We need to talk about girls and Internet safety, but it’s not what you think. It’s bigger.
Girl Guides of Canada offers programming for Sparks, Brownies, Guides, Pathfinders and Rangers, along the themes of online safety and web surfing, as well as offering a Cybercitizen Challenge. All great programming, yet in a world where the level of online connectivity has grown at the speed of light, it might be high time to revisit the scope of these badges.
The idea of internet safety to anyone over 18 years old can be summed up with these general “Golden Rules”:
- never share your password;
- always close your browser window after you check your banking on a public computer; and
- never connect in person with a stranger you meet online.
These same rules, however, will mean little if nothing to a 15 year old teenager. Warning her to be careful online will result in an exaggerated eye roll, a “whatever” or if you’re lucky, a simple “grunt”. It isn’t that she won’t follow your advice (well, maybe), but for her these rules are only one small aspect of being born and raised in an online world. It’s like telling an experienced driver to watch out for potholes or to slow down at a yellow light – obvious warnings that generally get ignored. The only way to talk internet safety with her is to reconsider what safety means to a child who is connected 24/7 to her friends, and to her friends’ friends, and to her friends’ friends of friends…
Internet “safety” must now incorporate skills for a teenager to learn how to walk the line between reality and the online world. Like most kids her age, a girl will likely portray herself as an über something-or-other, usually in direct contrast to her real-life. It’s where she can feel (pretend?) to be more daring, sexier, super outgoing, outright heroic, etc. Yet while role-playing is a natural way for a teenager to test out who she really is, confusion and related anxiety arise when a teenager tries to live as both of these people, every minute of every day.
So we need a NEW Golden Rule: #1. “Keep mentally safe”.
This would empower a girl to understand how to manoeuver between her experiences online and in-real-life, so she doesn’t get lost in who she really is (be it the fearless warrior or the shy girl).
Likewise, we need to broaden the scope of “internet safety”. I suggest Golden Rule: #2 “Know when to disconnect”.
This will help a girl recognize that while the virtual world is attractive and allows her to explore different persona, she still lives and breathes in the real world and needs to know how to live there – to the max. She should learn to identify when and how to disconnect; how to cultivate in-real-life relationships; how to have a conversation in more than 140 characters; and what it means to be present at an in-real-life community activity.
I can’t think of any better way to do that than have her join a youth organization – but I may be biased!
By Talya, GGC staff
Did you enjoy this post? Didn’t enjoy it but have something to say about it? We encourage you to share your comments and to pitch us your blog idea! We hope to hear from you! marketing1(@)girlguides.ca (Subject Line: Blog Pitch)