The two worlds of kids' morals

Mar 02, 2009

Children's moral behavior and attitudes in the real world largely carry over to the virtual world of computers, the Internet, video games and cell phones. Interestingly, there are marked gender and race differences in the way children rate morally questionable virtual behaviors, according to Professor Linda Jackson and her team from Michigan State University in the US. Their research is the first systematic investigation of the effects of gender and race on children's beliefs about moral behavior, both in the virtual world and the real world, and the relationship between the two. The study was published online in Springer's journal, Sex Roles.

Jackson and her team asked 515 12-year-old children (one-third African American, two-thirds Caucasian American) to fill in a written questionnaire looking at their moral behaviors and attitudes in the real world, and their view of morally questionable behavior in the virtual world. Measures of moral behavior in the real world included whether or not children had lied to parents and/or teachers, whether they had ever cheated, and whether they had ever bullied someone. Examples of morally questionable behavior in the virtual world were sending emails with threats, using sexually explicit or violent language in chat rooms and/or in text messages, hacking computers, and violence in video games.

Overall, African American children were more caring and more flexible about rules when personal goals were at stake than Caucasian American children. More specifically, Caucasian American girls and African American boys and girls viewed morality in the real world from the perspective of the individual's well-being. In contrast, Caucasian American boys' morality in the real world was more rule-based.

When it came to rating virtual behaviors, African American children were more likely than Caucasian American children to find acceptable virtual behaviors that result in real-world harm, for example emailing friends answers in advance of tests or sending text messages during class. The African American children were also more likely to find viewing online pornography acceptable.

For all groups, morality in the real world was related to morality in the virtual world. In other words, the more important good moral character in the real world was, the less acceptable morally questionable virtual behaviors were. There were however some race differences. African American children found some virtual behaviors that might advance individual goals in the real world more acceptable than did Caucasian American children. In contrast, the morality of Caucasian American boys, and to a lesser extent girls, was more rule-based in the virtual world.

The frequency of exposure to information technology also had an effect. The more children used the Internet, the more they found invasion of privacy online, videogame violence and online pornography acceptable.

The authors conclude that: "Educational interventions that are culturally sensitive need to be developed to assure that all children, regardless of race or gender, understand that certain virtual behaviors are unacceptable and in fact may be psychologically harmful, such as video game violence, or physically dangerous, like contacting strangers online."

More information: Jackson LA et al (2009). Gender, race and morality in the virtual world and its relationship to morality in the real world. Sex Roles DOI 10.1007/s11199-009-9589-5

Source: Springer

Explore further: Using feminist theory to understand male rape

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Designing tomorrow's air traffic control systems

Oct 15, 2014

On a good day, flying can be a comfortable and efficient way to travel. But all too often, weather or overcbooking can cause delays that ripple through the system, inducing missed flights, anxiety, discomfort ...

Can it be real? Augmented reality melds work, play

Oct 14, 2014

(AP)—Mark Skwarek is surrounded by infiltrating militants in New York's Central Park. He shoots one, then hearing a noise from behind, spins to take down another. All of a sudden, everything flashes red. ...

Do we want an augmented reality or a transformed reality?

Oct 14, 2014

It seems we are headed towards a world where augmented reality (AR) systems will be as common as smartphones are today – it's already about to revolutionise medicine, entertainment, the lives of disabled peop ...

RoomAlive: Microsoft Research team shows gaming future

Oct 06, 2014

Once upon a time family entertainment meant checkers, darts and playing charades. Then came game consoles and headsets. Now a Microsoft Research effort shows RoomAlive, a proof-of-concept prototype that makes ...

Recommended for you

Using feminist theory to understand male rape

1 hour ago

Decades of feminist research have framed rape and sexual assault as a 'women's issue', leaving little room for the experiences of male victims. But a new study published in the Journal of Gender Studies suggests that feminist ...

Simulation-based training improves endoscopy execution

Oct 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—Simulation-based training (SBT) improves clinicians' performance of gastrointestinal endoscopy in both test settings and clinical practice, according to research published in the October issue ...

Data sharing in pharmaceutical industry shows progress

Oct 16, 2014

To enhance the transparency of clinical trials for new drugs, a number of pharmaceutical firms have begun sharing data with investigators outside their own companies. Brian L. Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health ...

Swiss drug maker Roche posts flat 3Q sales

Oct 16, 2014

(AP)—Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG has reported "stable" or flat sales for the first nine months of 2013 but says the results show strong demand for its cancer drugs and emerging new products.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vos
not rated yet Mar 02, 2009
anyone remember the disaster of Ebonics? I wonder if this is the return of liberal efforts to separate the races. .... remember AGW is BS