Improving Youth Mental Health — and Protecting Canada’s Democracy involves Youth Digital Citizenship Education

by | Jun 25, 2021

Learning to decode digital tools like social media, video games, the web, AI and blockchain is crucial to a healthy future for Canada

[Repost from Medium in 2019 ] 2019 is the year Google turns 31, Facebook 15, and the iPhone 12 years old. Its also the year where we citizens, blinded clients of whiz bang Big Tech, are taking back control of digital media to make sure it truly improves our lives. Politicians have focused on fake news and campaign manipulation. The impact on kids’ well-being has so far been too silent, for lack of powerful advocates. Educators and concerned citizens are now coming together in Canada to help youth and adults develop a healthy use of digital media, through what is coined in San Francisco, the Tech Mecca, “Digital Citizenship” training and can be translated to “ healthy Digital Literacy ” in the Canadian context.

The New Civics: Decoding the Digital World

The new civics education involves explaining to young people -and many adults- how digital technology has been designed- free of legal constraints or care for individual protection. The risk, if they’re used without guidance, is to fall prey to privacy & security violations, cyberbullying, digital addiction, depression and disinformation and bias in the case of AI.

Critical Digital Literacy has very real impacts on our societies and daily lives

The main themes of education for healthy and safe digital citizens are:

  • Digital Etiquette: Developing healthy relationships via online media, without succumbing to the temptation to behave more agressively behind a screen than in person. The Canadian “Sorry” also applies online. 😉
  • Digital Safety: Protecting one’s privacy & security online.
  • Digital Diet: Controlling consumption of online media and games to avoid addiction and mental health issues like feelings of depression and apathy.
  • Digital Media Literacy: Deciphering true from fake news online to make informed decisions on health care, voting, purchases, sexual relationships, and all other aspects of everyday life.

Impacts on Individuals and Society of a Critical View of Tech

The impacts of not learning to use digital technology that seems like child’s play responsibly are real.

These are the areas of youth and adults lives that are impacted by unguided use of everyday Tech like social media, the Internet, video games, blockchain and AI-powered tools:

  • Democratic debate & Voting
  • Harmonious communities, families & relationships
  • Physical safety
  • National security
  • Physical & Mental wellness
  • Public safety
  • Purchasing wisely

Contact us to request “digcit” workshops for your school.

Toronto Schools Pilot Training

How do we bring this training to schools accross Canada? We are starting with a pilot program in Toronto, in both French immersion and English language schools.

“Avoiding and addressing hate speech and cyberbullying” at Toronto’s Collège Français in 7th grade

How it works:

  1. A contact is made with a member of the school community: a parent, educator or school administrator. Issues the school faces around poor use of digital media are discussed.
  2. A presentation of the lessons available for grades K to 12 is made to a group of the school’s educators and/or administrators.
  3. Grades and class times are selected for one or more free workshops with a number of teachers, whether in French, English, Civics, Maths, History or Physical Education & Well-Being.
  4. The workshop content is fine-tuned with each teacher to better adapt to his/her course content, via email and calls.
  5. A workshop is managed by myself or another trained digital literacy expert during class time, with the teacher in the classroom.
  6. Parents are notified by the school of the workshop content so they can also benefit from the training and prolong the conversation at home and with peers.
  7. Some schools may put in place other actions to develop community awareness around healthy digital literacy, like contests and events involving students.
  8. Parents may be invited to one or more information nights where myself or another healthy digital literacy expert will speak.
  9. An assessment of the impact of healthy digital habits training is made.
“Digital Media and Your Brain” 8th Grade workshop at the Collège Français in Toronto

Are you passionate both about kids’ & teens’ well-being and Tech? Contact me to join our outreach and education efforts, as an advocate in your school or as a volunteer expert!

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