Growing Up Online–some thoughts.

I meant to post on this earlier, but I didn’t get to it. Now I am. I watched the PBS Frontline show, “Growing Up Online” a couple of weeks back and was impressed. Frontline seems to always do such a good job of that “investigative” reporting stuff that I am reminded I must watch the show more that I do. For the record, if you didn’t see the show, it is online to watch. My plan is to get the DVD and show it to the faculties of the schools where I work. Then hopefully we can have a time for discussion afterwards.

There were a couple of posts on my “Ning” online communities that I’ll post here, rather than rewriting my thoughts on the show. Here are my posts:

I watched this show as well, last week, when it aired. I also thought that it depicted, generally speaking, the negative ways in which students were engaged online. I say generally because there were times when educators were demonstrating ways to effectively use the technology in their classrooms and in doing so, keeping the students engaged.

The subtext of the show that I picked up was that Frontline seemed to be trying to demonstrate how different families respond to their childrens’ use of online tools and the online world. One family was “keep the computer in a public place,” and yet the mom was still a little over the top with paranoia (in my opinion). This caused her daughter to only go online at a friends house. Another family had no idea what their 14 year old daughter was doing and when they found out, they removed the computer from her life for some time. Then later they worked together as a family how to best use the computer and the online world. Then there was the sad story about the father trying to figure out about his son’s experience by chatting with his friends, after the son had taken his own life.

So, I saw many families trying to deal with this new online world and yet most of them didn’t really have the tools that they needed to help their children navigate this “place.” That is something that I thought we as educators need to respond to–How do we help families learn to understand how children use the networked world? How do we as educators help families set up safe environments based on who their own children are as individuals? It’s not an easy question and perhaps it isn’t something that we should be involved in, but when the online world outside of schools comes through those doors everyday, it seems to me that we don’t really have a choice about not responding. In addition, with cell phones having Internet access at an increasing rate, all of this is just going to grow larger.

The other part about the show that was under emphasized, though it was there, was the fact that this “stuff” isn’t going away. It is here, and kids are going to use it, and we’re going to have to help them use it wisely.

I plan on showing this to the three schools at which I am an ITRT–to the faculties. It is my hope to begin a discussion with teachers about this stuff so that they are aware of what is going on. This way we can all begin to help families with the online world.

That is the main issue, I think: knowing “where” your children are. Also, knowing who their “friends” are, both in the three dimensional world and in the two dimensional cyber world.

I think in terms of the parent that I described as “over-the-top,” what I am attempting to communicate is that parents will have to learn what works for them and for their children and the relationship that they have with their children. For this woman, her approach, I think, was not successful. I think she was well-intentioned, but it seemed as if there was something missing in her relationship with her kids. Now, maybe I’m being idealistic here (I don’t have teenagers–only a 6 month old), but helping families learn what works for themselves as families is key, I think. Different families will approach all of this a little differently, and perhaps for one family, banning everything is the correct approach. For another family, a different approach might be better.

As educators we have a huge task here–educating both children and families on all of this stuff. In my school division, I have enlisted the support of the Guidance Counselors as they have a perspective and approach that is very helpful.

Good discussion, all around though!

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