Do Young Girls Need Extra Social Media Training? One Region Thinks So

By Kelsey Blair Comment

Is the new generation of tweeting, Facebook using, live-journaling teenager girl doing alright? One region in Canada isn’t so sure and is launching a five year strategy to educate girls about social media.

This week, the status of women ministers in Atlantic Canada announced that they plan to launch a five year strategy to educate and empower young women in the region about social media. “The impact of social media and, indeed, violence against women and girls knows no boundaries,” noted Pam Lynch, legislative secretary to Margaret-Ann Blaney, New Brunswick’s minister in a press release. “It is important for us to work together by sharing our expertise and our resources.”

The strategy comes from a meeting of the region’s local ministers and will focus on education, awareness and safety for girls and social media. The strategy will launch next year in 2012 at the minister’s next meeting in Newfoundland.

“We are committed to putting in place a strategy that strengthens the safety of young girls and women who want to engage in the safe use of social media products, and continuing dialogue with our regional counterparts at next June’s meetings,” said Susan Sullivan, Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister for the status of women.

The strategy is like the office worker who bakes seaweed cookies every Friday; its heart is in the right place, but its execution leaves a little something to be desired. While it’s excellent that an entire region sees social media as an area which should have government funded awareness and education strategies, why just girls? Are young boys not equally as deserving of education and awareness? Obviously, these were status of women ministers, and therefore it is their role to be gender specific in their recommendations. None the less, when it comes to youth, education, and social media, there really shouldn’t be a gender divide.

One thing the strategy does right: it recognizes the very real need to educate youth about social media. While there are no details about what this strategy might include, one hopes that it will not only focus on basic introductions to privacy settings, but that it will also attempt to confront more complicated issues of online relationships and identity formation.

A survey released by the Girl Scouts of America surveyed over 1000 girls ages 14-17 and found that “exposure to social media puts teenage girls in a confusing situation where a girl’s image is not always what it seems, as nearly 74 percent of girls agree that most girls use social networking sites to make themselves “cooler than they really are.” The survey finds that girls downplay several positive characteristics of themselves online, most prominently their intelligence, kindness and efforts to be a positive influence.”

In other words, a “profile page” takes on a whole new meaning for youth whose identity formation is already such a huge part of the maturation process. Hopefully, the ministers in Atlantic Canada will recognize such complicated issues in their strategy, and, with even better luck, other areas will follow suit, launching region wide education and awareness programs aimed at young social media users, regardless of gender.