Because teens grew up in a world in which the Internet has always existed, many adults assume that youth automatically understand new technologies. In reality, the youth still has much that they could improve on when it comes to using technology. A chapter from Danah Boyd’s book titled, “Are Today’s Youth Digital Natives?” expands on the ideas of how the youth today are digital natives and their parents are digital immigrants. There is a common misconception that all youth are able to work technology easily and with no issues, while their parents struggle greatly with the use of technology. Boyd goes on to say how really the youth needs to work on developing better critical digital literacy. The youth need to learn how to use proper website analysis, that there are algorithms with search engines, and websites like Wikipedia are not as bad as said to be. If they are able to learn these different techniques on the Internet, then they will develop better critical digital literacy. In this paper, I will present Boyd’s main claims and the ways that outside sources extend the main claims that Boyd makes.
One of Boyd’s main claims shows how the youth today are not taught proper website analysis. They are not taught the proper ways to distinguish useful information and real information, from all the false things that could be presented to them over the Internet. Boyd proposes questions like, “What biases are embedded in the artifact? How did the creator intend for an audience to interpret that artifact, and what are the consequences of that interpretation?” These questions that she gives us are questions that the youth should be asking themselves while searching on different websites for information. They need to have the skills to ask questions and challenge these “media artifacts” in order to insure that they are getting all the correct and factual stuff from their research. Boyd also goes on to state that, “they need to be able to understand the biases in advertising, whether the ads are disseminated online or through more traditional media.” There are many useful skills that the youth could still learn today about the Internet. Even though they are considered “digital natives,” this does not mean that they are automatically familiar with everything on the Internet. Overall, the youth needs to still learn what is right and factual on the Internet, since there is a great amount of stuff out there that is bad. A chapter from a book by Mike Caulfield titled “Four Strategies” extends on this idea of critical digital literacy by offering ways for the youth to use proper website analysis. For example, he says to follow four moves which are to “check for previous work, go upstream to the source, read laterally, and circle back.” This is to help with web analysis and show the youth the proper way of analyzing a website to make sure it is what they want. This directly extends on the idea of the youth not being equipped with critical digital literacy because Caulfield extends on how the youth should work the websites they are using. Another outside source is by Caulfield which is titled “Using Google Reverse Image Search”, which maps out perfectly how to tell the background of a picture and the source for where it came from. This also extends on the idea of web analysis which helps for the youth to understand where the pictures they see are coming from and what they should do to tell if they are legit or not. This helps the youth to make sure the pictures are credible and not a version of fake news. Mike Caulfield extends on Boyd’s argument of critical digital literacy.
Another claim by Boyd is that algorithms effect search engines, and not everything that is viewed on the Internet through these search engines is correct. Google is a major search engine used by many. Google is a for-profit company and is monetized through advertising. People who search on Google expect the top search results to be the best websites and answers, but this is not true. For example, Boyd states that, “Google is not in the business of verifying content or assessing content’s quality.” This means that the websites that the youth are always relying on as their search engines are not always the best choice. They need to be able to learn how to work around these algorithms and find actual sites that could be useful to them, rather than focusing on just the top results off of Google. Also, Boyd says that, “although the pages that Google offers are highly likely to be topically relevant with regard to the query, the company’s employees do not try to assess the quality of a given page.” Sites like conspiracy theory and celebrity gossip sites are given high rankings, which shows how anything that is relevant to a search is provided. It is not always useful information and these website show how the quality of a given page is not taken into account. The youth are the ones who need to assess the quality of these websites and decide what contains the information that is necessary to them. A source titled “Algorithmic Accountability: A Primer,” by Robyn Caplan, extends this idea of Boyd’s that algorithms effect search engines, which in turn affect people’s lives. She states that, “big decisions about people’s lives are increasingly made by software systems and algorithms.” Some things that people decide in their lives are based off of stuff that they find off the Internet. People want reassurance with things in their lives, and a way to do this is by using search engines like Google to see how they should perform certain tasks. This extends the idea of how algorithms affect the thinking of the youth and the decisions that they make on a regular basis through what they search up on search engines.
A claim by Boyd is also that Wikipedia is actually a site of knowledge production. Wikipedia gets a bad look from many educators who claim that Wikipedia is not trustworthy and not a good site to use for research. She states that, “Wikipedia can be a phenomenal educational tool, but few educators I met knew how to use it constructively.” Wikipedia could help the youth rather than just hurt them educationally, like taught by their teachers. The entire history of a page on Wikipedia is visible and the youth could see the sources of where people have gathered their information. This is useful and allows them to further their critical thinking. Also, Boyd states that, “no one taught them to think of Wikipedia as an evolving document that reveals how people produce knowledge.” Youth could do their own research on whether a site like Wikipedia is trustworthy, but instead determine the good or bad based off of what their teachers thought could be trusted. It actually could provide an ideal context for engaging the youth to interrogate their sources and understand how information is produced. An article by Adam Coomer titled, “Should university students use Wikipedia?” extends this claim by showing the greatest strength of a site like Wikipedia. He states that, “its contributors can choose which area they want to write about, which, in theory, means they only produce content where they are most qualified to do so.” This shows how Wikipedia could actually have a lot of factual, useful information that puts out good content. This is good for teens, especially in school, because Wikipedia could be used during research. The only thing is that teachers are against it. Wikipedia could be useful for students and used for knowledge production.
Boyd presents the argument that the youth today are not quite yet critical digital literate, but there are many things that they could do to improve this quality. Outside are used to extend Boyd’s argument and further help the persuasion of her argument. The youth today have much to work on when it comes to technology, and a big portion of this is developing critical digital literacy.