Promoting Ethical Literacy in Youth

I am currently in New Orleans for the American Library Association Annual Conference and Exhibition, where I will be speaking on the program “Promoting Ethical Literacy in Youth: How Librarians Can Partner with Parents and Teachers”, hosted by the ALA’s Committee on Professional Ethics and the Office of Intellectual Freedom. I am lucky to be paired with Dr. Nancy Zimmerman, an expert in information ethics from the University of South Carolina.

My contribution to the discussion focuses on identifying some of the unique ethical dilemmas that youth face in their information-based environments, and how some of our current literacy standards help address some of those issues. More importantly, I suggest four new strategies to help achieve ethical literacy in youth:

  • Talking and listening to youth
    • Discover their unique perspectives on privacy, property, information sharing & exchange
    • Need to shape ethical lessons & examples accordingly
  • Ensure ethics are integrated into all literacy-related educational activities
    • Specifically address ethical questions related to each learning outcome
    • Add ethical components to computer literacy courses, information literacy sessions, special projects
  • Reach youth through information technology
    • Engage the technology, don’t build fear of it
    • Create ways to teach ethics through the active use of Facebook, Wikipedia
  • Turn all information interactions into “ethical teaching moments”
    • Game nights could include discussion of cheating
    • YouTube video contests could address copyright
    • Searching Google can present lessons on bias, free speech, censorship

The slides framing my contribution can be accessed below. I’m really looking forward to this conversation.


  1. Hi, Michael!
    I want to start by saying that I have recently started following you due to a class that I am taking in college and I find your work very interesting and educational. The class that I am taking is a Philosophy class dealing with Computer Ethics, and I have really been exposed to a lot of information that I previously did not know. To give you a little background, I am 42 and have three children and I have returned to school to finish my BA in Psychology and further pursue my Masters.

    With that said, my children’s ages are late teens and early twenties so they have a full exposure to technology. I constantly remind my children now that anything that is posted to their facebook is permanent, and explain to them that if one person copies a photo or a posting it could potentially be spread across the internet and be virtually irretrievable. Through this class and the many readings that we have encountered, I am now confident that we also need to teach children that when they sign up for a social network they need to read very carefully about information sharing. Most social sites seem to have an ‘opt-out’ model and I would argue that most people are not aware of this until such time as something happens and they are exposed in some way. I have a teenage daughter and I am probably more adamant about teaching and witching her than I am my sons, but each of them need a better understanding of how social networks share information.

    Youtube is also a site that kids need to be very careful with and learn the potential dangers of posting inappropriate videos. Children should be educated about the permanency of postings on the internet. Any posting that is deemed professionally inappropriate can cause future harm and most kids don’t take this into consideration.

    Bottom line is that I appreciate your work and respect that immensely. Thank you, and I look forward to continuing to follow your articles!

    Monty D. Grimmett

  2. promoting ethical literacy in youth is a good idea and it will help to promote good ethics in youth and the community at large.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s