WOMEN

Young Girls To Get Social Media Training This Fall

06/22/2011 12:52 pm ET | Updated Aug 22, 2011

Unless you monitor every key stroke your daughter makes, you probably don't know the extent of socializing she does online. There are already 7.5 million Facebook users under the age of 13, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg says they have no reason not to be there.

But between tweeting, blogging, webcam communities and Facebook, there is a lot of room for young girls to get lost -- at least that's what the Atlantic Ministers Responsible for the Status of Women in Canada believe.

Earlier this month the Atlantic Ministers announced their plans to develop "a five-year strategy that will initially focus on education and awareness around the impact of social media on young girls," launching in fall 2011.

They intend to "address the impact of social media use on young girls by identifying current measures in place, recognizing existing gaps and emerging needs, collaborating with social media advisors and evaluating outcomes of the proposed strategy," according to a press release.

So far they haven't mentioned any specific issues that the initiative will target, such as oversharing and online bullying.

Social Times points out that the strategy only addresses creating programs for girls and asks if young boys aren't just as deserving of education and awareness, claiming, "When it comes to youth, education, and social media, there really shouldn’t be a gender divide."

But studies show that social media can put teen girls in confusing situations. A survey by the Girl Scouts of America found that nearly three quarters of girls use social networking sites to appear "cooler than they really are." And that's where trouble often starts.

It's not hard to see why girls would want to develop a presence online, especially when becoming an online personality can actually lead to professional success.

14-year-old fashion blogger Tavi Gervinson has the Internet (in addition to her own talent and ingenuity, of course) to thank for her rapid rise to fame and influence. Her blog holds the attention of fashion industry bigwigs, and she is collaborating with former Sassy and Jane magazine editor Jane Pratt on a new online venture.

Blair Fowler, 17, has developed an army of fans by ways of her "haul vlogs" on YouTube. By shopping and sharing her purchases online, she has nabbed deals with cosmetics and clothing companies.

But Gervinson and Fowler's experiences are not the norm, and girls who spend large quantities of time online negative experiences.

In April, Rolling Stone reported on the sad story of Kiki Kanibal, now 18, who has been an online personality since age 14. For every fan she has aquired by blogging and filming webcam shows on Stickam, she gained as many haters, some of whom have gone so far as to vandalize her home and send violent threats to her and her family.

It will be interesting to see how the Canadian initiative addresses some of these issues in the fall. Young girls are already web savvy, probably more so than the ministers trying to protect them. What they need is specific guidance on how to protect themselves online.

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