Media Literacy Educators Are Not Responsible for Society’s Digital Problems

screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-10-39-42-pmThe Media Literacy community is dedicated and passionate about its work — but not according to danah boyd (yes she spells her name this way).

I’ve just read her article, Did Media Literacy Backfire? and honestly, I am puzzled. Boyd aptly describes today’s problems with unsubstantiated information and dramatic cultural divides, but she goes on to blame media literacy.

Medialit has no causal relationship with the cultural issues that divide us. In fact, if there is any connection between today’s digital information and cultural communication problems it’s that we don’t have nearly enough school literacy programs to help all students learn how to deconstruct and consume media.

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How Parents Confront Digital Life Challenges

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-8-57-06-pmTake a few minutes to read When Tech is a Problem Child,  appearing in the New York Times on November 19, 2016.

Written by Bruce Feiler, the article describes how families go about addressing and solving the day-to-day digital challenges that occur in 21st Century life. Feller spent six weeks asking parents, via social media, to share their rules and strategies related to raising children in the digital world. He describes in some detail the parents’ ideas, including thoughts about mobile phones, homework, digital devices and bedtime, social media use, consequences, and how families go about setting up phone-free family time.

While soliciting answers to 20 questions, as Feller did, is not scientific research, he did gather some interesting information about the challenges of raising children and the conversations that occur between children and their parents in the 21st Century digital world. Moreover, the article begins and ends with delightful references to the well-known musical, The Music Man, and its song, Trouble in River City.

My favorite digital parenting idea, relayed by Feller, came from a family that adopted a strategy for keeping children focused during device-free activities. They told their children that if a device was picked up, the parents would get to see texts on that phone and read them aloud. Clever idea.

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How Photos & Data Collecting Take Away Our Privacy

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A bank of computers in a data center. Via Pixabay.

Finding good resources to help young people learn and understand more about data and photo collecting is key to building strong citizens in our 21st Century digital world. We adults can also learn a lot in the process.

Interestingly, no matter how we set privacy settings (stipulating who can see our images), the sites where we post and share continually  accumulate information about us  — much, but not all, gleaned from the photos themselves.  Yes, it’s about digital footprints, but it’s much bigger than that.

One article we should read is Why Photos Are The Next Big Battleground in the Fight for Privacy, over at The Next Web news site. The report is chock full of interesting information about big data and how it zeros in on our photos. It also includes sobering statistics about the number of pictures that people share in sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Google. It’s good information to share with the digital kids in your family or school. Continue reading

Building Habits of Privacy Into the Conversation & the Curriculum

21st Century Vocabulary Words — Privacy

21st Century Vocabulary Words — Privacy

Young people confuse privacy with safety.

While most kids carefully follow the rules that parents and teachers set out — no names, addresses, telephone numbers, or other personal information — when it comes to the big privacy picture, it turns out that many children understand very little about their personal data, how it accumulates, and how it affects privacy. (Check out my privacy links at the end of this post.)

Thus we need an alternate privacy teaching strategy that helps 21st Century kids — all ages really — understand how their digital-world data  accumulates — even when users observe the all-important safety rules.

Bruce Schneier, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, writes about and consults on data and security, and his blog is Schneier on Security. In a 2010 post, A Revised Taxonomy of Social Networking Data, Schneier suggests how to classify data into six personal categories, the data generated as we use social media (and I’ll add other websites and games), and how all this data creates an individual’s digital profile. (Note: profile is another 21st Century vocabulary word).

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5 New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Parents’ & Kids’ Digital Literacy Skills

The New York Times recently published For the New Year, Let’s Resolve to Improve Our Tech Literacy, about the need for leaders, law enforcement officials and policy makers to increase their digital world literacy. The December 23, 2015 article, written by Farhad Manjoo, points out that many the big problems that occur in our world become even more complicated because the leaders and law enforcement personnel do not have a big-picture understanding of the vast changes technology brings to today’s world. Greater understanding might strengthen our leaders’ problem solving skills.

This article looks at the importance of digital literacy on a large-scale.

Tech Literacy

As I finished reading, I began thinking about resolutions on a smaller scale — those steps that adults and children can take in 2016 to improve a family’s tech literacy and perhaps prevent at least some of the potential connected-world problems. It’s a fast-paced, always-changing 21st Century world and everyone has a lot to learn. Many of the issues that do occur are made worse because kids and parents do not have enough knowledge to anticipate what might go wrong and take steps to steer clear of problems.

Below are five digital literacy resolutions that parents can make, and all of them can help people — both adults and children — become more sensible and savvy connected world citizens.                                                                  Continue reading

A Positive Story for Younger Digital Kids: Meet the Von Awesome Family

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEAs parents and educators, we quickly come to understand how stories help young people learn.

Unfortunately when it comes to digital parenting and digital citizenship, we do not have many positive children’s stories — the kind you can sit down and read with a child. We know what we want children to learn as they grow-up and use more and more digital devices in a connected world. We are also gradually coming to understand that citizenship and digital citizenship are one and the same.

We need lots more stories that illustrate the way digital life should be lived — stories that we can share with 21st Century children when they are young.

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Digital Opportunities That Make Life Better — Thanksgiving 2015

Thanksgiving GratitudeIt’s Thanksgiving 2015 and time for my annual list celebrating what’s good about our digital world.

As a parent, teacher, and 21st Century learning advocate with a digital parenting focus, I spend lots of time suggesting ways that families, educators, and children, can strategize, enrich, and improve their digitally connected lives. And, of course, I am always encouraging people — kids and parents —  to learn and understand enough about digital life to avoid potential problems.

This year I am especially grateful for a young new family member and for the digital tools that allow me to continually stay in touch. The ability to see, chat, laugh, watch reactions, and almost touch family members who live at a distance enriches life in countless ways.

My 2015 Thanksgiving List 

I am thankful that digital life allows me to:       Continue reading