We’re growing up in an age where our children will not know a time when the Internet relied on wires, when TVs used to have manual controls and when we only had 3 channels of telly and a handful of newspapers to provide information about what was happening in the world.
In the late 1980s and 90s I was taught that the information age meant that my generation would need information filtering skills. Due to the volume of information, any ordinary person would need to understand how to decipher who was talking, how to establish how their background and agenda influenced the message, and therefore whether to trust what was being said – or seek out alternative views.
Kids today will need more than that. I understand that in schools kids are taught how to remain “safe” online by avoiding ‘stranger danger’ on Facebook and the like. I am sure that increasingly being digitally literate means the deciphering skills I learnt about during my GCSEs and my degree will become inbuilt.
But are kids being taught about the algorithms that drive what they see online in the first place? Do 9-year olds know how the Google algorithm ranks web pages and PPC ads to give them the top result for “Horrible Histories”? Do teenagers understand the cookie tracking data and personal information stored about their ‘Likes’ in order for Facebook to present them ads about Azealia Banks’ latest release – and indeed stop them from downloading it illegally?
This is Advanced Media Studies – not just knowing how the media manufacture and produce the information we consume but how our new ‘windows on the world‘ use data about us and our behaviour to filter on our behalf. To be successful in the new information age our kids will need to master the mechanics of production as well as its outputs.