Online vs. Offline Morality in Kids

March 12, 2009 at 10:58 am 2 comments

michigan_state_logoMichigan State University is looking to start the conversation about how kids’ offline moral standards translate into their online interactions.   They have no conclusive information at this time, but they believe more time needs to be devoted to understanding the correlation between the two.  From the Wall Street Journal Blog,

The study, titled “Gender, Race and Morality in the Virtual World and Its Relationship to Morality in the Real World,” looks at responses from 515 seventh-graders to questions about the acceptability of “virtual” actions. Those actions included spreading computer viruses, emailing test answers to friends, viewing pornography and sending sexually explicit messages to strangers. It compares those results to the same students’ responses to questions about real-world behavior like cheating on tests, bullying or teasing, lying to parents or teachers and using racial slurs.

Without knowing anymore detail about the study, I’m interested to know how they correlated and valued the corresponding online and offline behaviors.  In the world of social interactions there are so many contextual variants and explanations for human actions, it has to be challenging to assign a finite moral equivalent to different actions.  

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more on this front, and the obvious follow up question of how do we teach kids to exercise their moral conscious in the online world as they would the offline?

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Entry filed under: Communication, Digital Citizenship, Education, Kids, Learning, News, Research, Youth. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Drew C.  |  March 12, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    I like your last question posed, Amy. However, I do not believe offline and online morals will mesh. It’s that computer screen that gets in the way. And, maybe the morals should be the same, but maybe the curosity of online interaction and knowledge thirst lends itself to strayed morals or exploration? Maybe it can serve as identifying ethical and moral boundries for people in an offline world?

  • 2. Amy Strecker  |  March 12, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    What an interesting thought Drew, that maybe the online medium lends itself to exploration. I do agree that online and offline life has different standards, and it will be interesting to see how they evolve as online lives continue to expand.


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