For the vast majority of online youth, Internet safety going forward is about participatory intelligence – functioning well in community, thinking critically and acting civilly while producing as well as consuming media.
by Anne Collier
In talks and sound bytes over the past year, I've been saying that – for the vast majority of online youth – digital citizenship is the new Internet safety. And indeed digital citizenship is HUGE, for the very reason that behaving aggressively online more than doubles the risk of being victimized (see "Good citizens in virtual worlds, too"). Still, that's really only the half of it. Media literacy is the other half. I haven't been saying that "digital citizenship + media literacy = online safety 2.0" because it's such a mouthful, and it's important to keep things simple and focused. But media literacy is huge too, because critical thinking about incoming ad messages, compliments, group think, etc. is protective against manipulation and harm.
Now it's time for a remix. The old, tried 'n' true media literacy is about what we consume, read, or download. We still need that – more than we ever have in this fast-paced age of information overload. But on the fixed and mobile participatory Web of social creating and creative networking, we also need social media literacy. I have spent some time in and been influenced by NewMediaLiteracies.org, the work of MIT media professor Henry Jenkins, colleagues and students, building on Jenkins's foundational 2006 white paper, "Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture" (see also my coverage of it in '06).
If you watch the video on NewMediaLiteracies.org's home page or look at the basic skills of new media literacy, I think you too will see that digital citizenship is there – perhaps partly under "Negotiation" ("the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms") and partly under "Collective Intelligence" ("the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal"). But maybe it should be its own skill. Doesn't it make sense to fold it in there?
More importantly, I think the critical skill, "Judgment" ("the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources"), needs to be redefined. That's the old media literacy definition. Critical thinking on the participatory Web needs to be about what we upload, post, produce, and behave as much as what we download, read, watch, and passively consume. If social media literacy involves that kind of critical judgment, as well as digital citizenship (a first stab at a definition might be: the ability to function, act, communicate, and collaborate appropriately, civilly, ethically, and productively in community), then I propose that….
Social media literacy = online safety 2.0
Or am I being too reductionist? Do you prefer:
Digital citizenship + social media literacy = online safety 2.0?
Please weigh in, with a comment in the ConnectSafely forum or via email to anne(at)netfamilynews.org.