Chapter 13: Digital literacy and digital citizenship approaches to girls’ online experiences – Matthew Johnson


Johnson’s chapter argues that, to date, most interventions have focused on safety issues. This has been particularly problematic for girls, because they are more likely than boys to report that: the Internet is an unsafe place for them; they could be hurt by talking to someone they do not know online; and their parents worry about them getting hurt online. Johnson suggests that media literacy education is a corrective, because it encourages young people to develop the skills they need to use, understand and create with digital technologies. Placing digital literacy within a broader context of digital citizenship also steers us away from punitive responses based on fears about safety; and moves us towards interventions that will encourage young people to develop the empathy, ethical perspective and activist stance that are at the heart of acting responsibly online. He outlines a number of educational initiatives created by MediaSmarts, Canada’s largest digital literacy organization, that promote digital literacy, and urges educators to take gender into account in digital literacy education. In particular, since girls rely on social norms to negotiate a comfortable degree of online privacy, educators who teach online privacy issues should take as a starting point the need for respect for the privacy expectations of others. Similarly, he suggests that educational initiatives that address cyberbullying, sexting and media stereotypes should take into account the gendered nature of these harms, and call upon everyone — boys and girls — to act as responsible digital citizens.