Kids need to be taught social media intelligence: MUN professor

Diane Crocker
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Today’s generation is referred to as Generation C or the connected generation, and Lyle Wetsch said that means they’re not just consuming content, but they’re contributing content.

“It’s more of a sharing or collaborative generation,” said Wetsch, an associate professor at Memorial University in St. John’s and social media expert.

He said when looking at certain age brackets at least 60 per cent of people upload video to YouTube once a month and many on a daily or weekly basis.

But just why people chose to share certain events, like the video of a teenage boy getting beaten up in Corner Brook that was posted to Facebook earlier this week, is a stronger issue, said Wetsch. “But it is a global issue that is taking place,” he said.

“I think that one of the things that people need to realize is that the video content that’s being uploaded, even though they’re not participating in the assault act itself, by uploading the video content that does fall under cyberbullying because you’re basically prolonging and propagating the attack into perpetuity.”

Wetsch said a lot of institutions use cyberbullying regulations to try to curtail this. He noted that Australian schools have been granted extra powers to extend punishment and the range of punishment that can be assigned to individuals for posting these types of events.

Wetsch said because these events occur — attacks, bullying and posting of pictures and videos related to it — doesn’t mean that the message that these things are wrong is not getting through.

“I don’t think the message is getting through to everyone.”

Wetsch said it’s the same for other types of behaviours with this generation and the ones before it — some people get it and others hear the same message and choose not to get it.

Unfortunately, he said when there’s a story like this people see social media as being to blame.

“Social media is not to blame, it’s the event that’s to blame, social media just happens to be the channel,” said Wetsch. “It’s the behaviour that’s to blame, not the channel.”

He also said today’s youth are termed “digital natives” as they are being brought up embedded with this.

“But one of the things I found with research is that the problem that exists is while they may have social media knowledge, they don’t have social media intelligence.

“Yes they’ve been brought up with this, but they’ve had to teach themselves.”

Wetsch said schools really need to incorporate digital citizenship as a life skill into the curriculum as early as Grade 3.

“Today there is no sort of more important life skill than managing your digital and social media space.”

He said he’s seen it in some small examples but nothing strong at provincial level.

“Any sort of ongoing messaging is going to be better than the occasional visits from the RNC or other people saying cyberbullying is bad, here’s the key things.

“It’s really got to be embedded into the thinking that people are doing right from the beginning.”

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • Ira Gould
    March 29, 2014 - 10:14

    We have a network which picks up on buzzwords like "terrorist" - "bomb" - "Aikeida" These same technologies might be applied in this application as well. Billions of dollars are spent each year on internet monitoring.