Growing up Online – what are our youth facing?

January 24, 2008

I watched the Frontline episode of “Growing up Online” that aired on Tuesday night (you can view it here) . I thought overall that the episode was pretty good. It was a bit of doom and gloom, however, it showed a pretty realistic view of what youth are experiencing as far as the social networking tools that they use so frequently and how it is affecting SOME of them. Hopefully these were not seen as generalizations because not all teens are committing suicide, putting up questionable photos of themselves, or searching for the best way to become anorexic. There are numerous positives to the technology and our youth using them.

My interactions with these social networking tools have been very similar to how Will Richardson described his own experience: “And I think that was the major point that was driven home to me, that as much as I look at these social tools and “properties” as learning opportunities, as much as they are a part of my life, I understand them only from the viewpoint of an adult, one that came to the Internet and blogs and live streaming television with a pretty healthy sense of who I am and a well-developed and tested decision making process that made navigating these spaces fairly straightforward. ”

In saying that, these tools need to be considered from the perspective that teens are viewing them with, rather than how we might see them as adults and then plans can be made for teaching them appropriate uses.

The most disturbing part of the episode was the clip about the father of the boy who committed suicide who reached out to the friend of his son’s who also seemed to be toying with the idea of suicide and then talked to the father who did not know anything about computers and seemed unconcerned about what he was being told about his son. It would be nice for parents to know something about computers if they are equipping their children with these tools, however, at least they should be involved in their children’s lives and be able to have a discussion with them.

In Angie Balkwill’s blog about the episode, she included some key quotes that rang out for her. The one that I am quickly learning this semester through blogging, Twitter, email, Facebook… is “The Internet is always a willing listener.” How true!! Available 24/7 to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection, there is always someone you can “talk” to and it is an arena in which you will be heard – though as one of the other quotes infers, you are not always sure who it is that is listening.

A lot to consider…


3 Responses to “Growing up Online – what are our youth facing?”

  1. roadrunner Says:

    Hi Connie.
    I watched the episode this morning. I liked that it told the story from 4 perspectives – the teacher, the teenager, the adult, and the researcher. While the choice of story lines were dramatic, the fact that so many extremes were readily available in the same small city suggested to me that the portrayal is very real.
    I’m going to do a little action research with my husband and teenage daughter to get their reations.
    p.s. Thanks for locating the link.

  2. Dean Miezianko Says:

    Connie, I watched this as well and I found it interesting but definitely had a “made for television flair”. What I did find interesting was the comment on how kids read books using and the comments by the 30 year English teacher. When she said that she was not going to take up the fight it made me think that this is probably a pretty common train of thought among teachers in the twilight years of teaching. How do we help these teachers, I don’t know if you can unless they are willing to embrace the new way of teaching and integrate it into their comfort zone.

  3. ccossar Says:

    I agree Cindy and Dean that there was a little bit of TV drama in the mix. I was also shocked about the phenomena – I guess if it is out there, they will find it. It is tough for teachers to embrace technology if they don’t have support of parents, their colleagues and their school divisions, plus the means to use it. More money, PD, and support need to be given to teachers surrounding technology use or it just won’t happen.

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