Helping youth understand digital privacy

As National Cyber Security Month winds down, some 250 high school students from across Canada headed to Ottawa to learn about digital literacy at the Digital Youth Summit.

Karen Smith, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, was there to help them, along with Daniel Therrien, the federal Privacy Commissioner, journalist Jesse Brown, and representatives from Facebook and Microsoft.

Smith, whose research focuses on participation, openness and privacy in a digital age, is keen to engage youth on issues related to digital privacy.

“I feel that it is important to work with youth on this topic, because privacy is foundational for so many of our rights as citizens,” Smith explains.

Smith, who completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Mozilla before coming to Brock this summer, knows the value of a hands-on approach when it comes to the open web.

Last year, Smith became part of a Hive Toronto research team that designed a curriculum of learning activities related to privacy, based on research funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. She describes the resulting programming as “a fun way to engage youth to learn about things like Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.”

“We did things like create a “Data Trail Timeline,” an activity that challenged youth to create a diary of all of the times in a day when their personal information was collected and to tell a digital story of their experiences,” she says.

The curriculum, now offered as a Maker Party by Hive Toronto, provides youth with a chance to learn digital literacy skills like coding and remix in order to create projects related to privacy.

Earlier this month, after facilitating a public conversation with author Cory Doctorow about his book, Little Brother, at the Markham Public Library, Smith helped run a Hive Toronto Maker Party event for young people in Markham. Last week, Hive Toronto took the Maker Party to the students in Ottawa.

The Digital Youth Summit, hosted by the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and Media Smarts, ran Oct. 22-23.

To learn more about the privacy curriculum, visit


Read more stories in: News, Social Sciences
Tagged with: , , , ,