Facing the risk of networking: ten ‘lifelines’ for digital orphans


Ten questions to avoid the dark side of the networks, especially among children and adolescents who have learned to use them without adult help

Learning to navigate the digital environment and socialize has been an intuitive process for the younger generations, digital natives. But they’ve done it in most cases without adults to guide them through the process, so they can be considered “digital orphans”.

For example: 53% of young Spaniards cannot distinguish between facts and opinions in relatively clear texts.

This lack of guidance makes digital literacy essential at all stages of education, although the need has not been made clear in the legal text of the LOMLOE.

The following is a decalogue of practical proposals for meeting the challenges of digital communication:

With minimal technical or intellectual effort, images, texts, videos and audios can be sent without space restrictions. As a result, urgency has become a kind of competition for the media, in which quality is often subordinated to immediacy.

The first aspect that young people need to analyze when confronted with a message that reaches them is whether the alarm that was produced and the viralization that accompanies it is due to the importance of the event or to coincidence in time from a very large number of users talking about the same topic.

Information with a high social impact usually takes the place of maximum relevance in the main media, regardless of the ideological orientation.

A good tip to check apparently informative impactful content is the repercussion in the professional media and the importance that those channels attach to it.

Social networks and instant messaging channels like WhatsApp have turned any user into a potential mass communicator. For this reason, before content reaches us, we must ask ourselves two questions: whether we trust the person who sent it to us and whether we can also trust the original source of the message.

According to the two-step flow theory, we tend to trust more those people who are a source of inspiration to us. Therefore, we have to look at the primary source, ie the one who generated the content, even if the person who sends it to us is an authority for us in this field.

Too much information leads to misinformation. It has been shown that the average attention time for content in the digital environment is 8 seconds. While it is true that there is room for a lot of informational content on the internet, users consume it in a very short time.

Attention should be paid to correcting this tendency to perform multiple tasks and applications at the same time and to perform digital detox exercises, especially to control the time of mobile use.

While the Internet is a wonderful resource for its ability to store and link large amounts of information, the reality is that digital channels often provide short and engaging content, generally intended to grab our attention. This reality, referred to in journalism as clickbait (hookholder), is directly related to the decline in the quality of journalistic information and the loss of citizens’ trust in the media.

Media literacy would help users avoid the headline hook trap by allowing them to distinguish which specific topics are important and which they are interested in. A simple practice is to create lists of trusted sources (for example, professional media and prestigious journalists) in social networks, to quickly and efficiently find the most relevant and verified content.

Relying on emotions as a plot to grab the public’s attention isn’t necessarily harmful, unless it’s used excessively and avoids paying attention to what’s relevant. The news often emphasizes the anecdotal and frivolity of an event, ignoring its fundamentals.

It’s known as the orchestra pit syndrome: when two great leaders stand on the stage of a theater, one of them announces a proposal that will bring peace to the world and the other falls into the orchestra pit by mistake, the front page news will fall to be.

The challenge of media literacy is to ensure that the public does not get caught up in the anecdote and manages to use emotionality to get to the fundamental problem.

Social networks and messaging systems are channels of communication with very few controls over publishers and content. The presence of fake profiles, such as bots, makes it practically impossible to prevent the viralization of malicious content.

Since the user’s attitude when selecting channels is the key to combating misinformation, there are several simple verification routines that can be taught in the classroom: an exercise consists of generating a list of aspects to check before a content is validated.

These elements would give rise to a kind of “credibility traffic light” that would make it possible to know the degree of warranty of what has been received before deciding to rebroadcast it. This preliminary reflection allows us to know if we are contributing to making real content viral and how we can improve the networks with our contributions, by denying or adding to the falsehoods we receive.

Social networks are known to be run by algorithms that select content for us based on our browsing history. This system creates effects such as the so-called “media echo chamber” or the dangerous “bubble filters” that diminish our perception of the outside world.

You can play with the algorithm to design your profile so that it learns to link to various reputable sources. Teens need to be able to understand that what appears on their networks is just a deliberate fragment of reality, artificially constructed. It’s not that it’s untrue, but it’s incomplete, as Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi rightly defined Adichie in The Danger of a Single Story.

One of the most disturbing effects of the spread of fake news is social polarization and the spread of hate speech. Together with emotion, disinformation often tries to radicalize society and divide citizens into ideologically opposed groups. In this sense, populists are experts at choosing words and manipulating contexts to elicit emotional responses in users.

But populism can be combated with media literacy. In the classroom, textual analysis based on populist language can be presented and, as a game, encourage young people to separate facts from opinion, discover different opinions and understand the foundations of each point of view, refute opinions, distinguish reasoned opinions, increase the number and variety of opinions, etc.

Contrary to the most optimistic predictions, the Internet has caused certain perverse effects already discovered in the mass society of the 20th century to resurface. The German sociologist Elisabeth Noelle-Newmann described this kind of self-censorship in her work The Spiral of Silence. Public opinion: our social skin.

The author’s thesis is that, faced with the dominant opinion, the individual tends to remain silent and withhold his own opinion, even considering the possibility that he is the one who is wrong in the face of the majority.

A kind of silent spiral has developed in digital society: the fear of being lynched on the networks, of causing unwanted rifts between groups of family or friends, etc., often leads to self-censorship and the fear of expressing our opinions in public. , which ultimately represents a serious violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression.

To counter it, we must value interpersonal communication in small groups of trustworthy people, teaching the art of debate and dialectics, learning how to properly present our own ideas.

Media literacy is not only a hot topic in our education systems, but also an issue that cannot be postponed. There is an urgent need to be educated from childhood in the use of means of communication as powerful as digital ones.

It is not about sowing fear or promoting negative thinking about new technologies; Rather, the challenge is to understand the potential of these tools and to assume that people need to learn how they work and how to use them from the school stage.

This approach also presents a challenge for educators, who need specific training in social communication to identify the causes and consequences of misinformation. The goal is common and shared: to build a future based on knowledge of the truth, on freedom of expression, on democracy and on ensuring the defense of human rights.

This article was published in ‘The conversation‘.

Source: La Verdad


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