Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Growing Up Online: Frontline's Amazing Journey

We have all been patiently waiting for the Frontline show, Growing Up Online. Some people were worried...some folks are upset. But, truthfully, I found it was pretty good.

Some comments (go view it and then come on back :-)

One point that Frontline illustrates well is the divide between the teachers who are "out of date" and the ones who are "up to speed" with technology. Many of us using Second Life have felt the weight of this divide; in fact, the divide is creating rifts and tension in many schools in the K-22 system. Why?

Well, I can't claim to know the answer, but here is my guess. The students entering college today know a heckuva lot more about thechnology than most teachers (not the readers of THIS blog, surely). For some, this is an uncomfortable place to be...the teacher is supposed to hold the keys to knowledge...passing them out with each successfully aced test or essay. To allow students to be key holders means we have to give something up, right? For some, the answer is yes and will always be yes. Teachers teach; students learn. For the rest of us (the ones on the other side of the grassy knoll), we understand that learning is a shared process. Just today, a student showed me some Google shortcuts. Instead of acting like I was dumbfounded that he could possibly know more about Google than me (a Google Addict), I applauded him, had him teach everyone in the class, and gave him a gold star for brilliance. Sure, he had some sparkle in his eyes for one-upping the teacher, but, hey, he deserves a little sparkle! I am not threatened by his brilliance; to me, his brilliance and his ability to communicate it to me and to a class of 25 peers is an awesome tribute to the potential of collaborative educational tools!

Another point made by Frontline is the angst of parents. In dealing with many a frustrated parent, I understand the problem. It is easy to say "stay off the street corner" because you can drive by it and check if Susie is strutting her stuff there; it is not so easy to find a street on the internet where Susie has posted pics of herself nude. It is even harder to know that Joey, her MySpace friend, who says he is also 14 is actually 43 and collecting every pic of her and making a room collage of them arranging a time when they can meet so he can capture and rape her. Parents know the evils of the real world, and now a whole NEW world has popped up that they know little about. Now, kids are smart...if a parent goes to Susie and says "Susie, show me your MySpace page," Susie is gonna click up some sweet looking sight that makes her out to be next in line for a Pulitzer Prize. Kids aren't going to show their parents where the bad stuff is...did we show our parents where the lookouts were??? Parents are busy working, and there aren't many classes offered for parents on "how to spy on your teen 101." So, there is a whole host of people out there that have no idea how to monitor their kids. One parent recently told me that he was really irritated by the politicians and celebrities that say "Yo, Parents! Monitor Thy Kids." He said, "I would if I knew how." Since technology changes is no wonder parents are left in the dark.

And, what about these kids? Frontline does a nice job of illustrating how kids are connecting during every free second; they multi task (and, as one teacher put it, they have less of an ability to focus). These kids are surrounded my media all day long. Plus, there are no places for kids to hang out...they aren't allowed to lolligag at the mall, movies are waaaaay too expensive (and you can't talk), and we don't let our kids sit out on the front porch because they might get mugged, raped, or kidnapped. We banned all the skateboard parks, we don't them go out and play a good old game of "kick the can" because some parent might sue another if someone gets hurt. We banned barbies because they degrade women; we don't live near corner stores since that Walmart opened up down the street....there is simply nothing for them to do that is FREE, SAFE, and FUN.

So, is it a surprise that they have found a way to connect to one another online? Is it safer? Well, that depends on what you mean by safe. Cyber bullying is on the rise (and Frontline does a nice segment on it). Cyber Stalkers are on the rise. All of the scary things of Real Life (you know...the reasons they aren't allowed to sit on that front stoop) exist online. But, as Frontline reported, the ONE study done about cyber predators indicates that most kids DO KNOW how to spot cyber predators.

Sadly, I learned of the Goddess Ana - or the cult of eating disorders. And, I felt pained by Evan and her damaged relationship with her son; her quest to protect him has sent him further away from her. But, was her quest too strong? I never let my Mom read my diary...but, I also didn't publish my diary for everyone in the world to read.

My heart pours out to the family of Ryan; he committed suicide because some student teenage girl broke his heart and trampled his ego. Cyber bullying is just nuts. Kids think that the words in print hurt less than the words coming out from your mouth. Clearly, as Ryan's death shows, words hurt in any medium and clearly "amplified and accelerated" his pain.

SO, where do we go from here? We teach them to be responsible cyber citizens. Period.

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1 comment:

Tom Pinit said...

Brilliant post Beth, I totally agree with your comments. We actually just bloggeda about this as well ( It's interesting to hear from an educator's point of view on the Internet's pros and cons. Gone are the days when it was ok to let your kid walk 6 miles to the nearest fishing hole, or 1 mile to their best friend's house--now they've gotten be in line-of-sight all the time. Being proactive with your kids is the best thing we can do as parents and adults, especially in the Internet 2.0 Era.