For years now, I have cringed whenever an article on young people and technology has come out in a popular magazine for the masses, knowing that fear and negativity would be front and center. There were always the stories of online abductions, and cyberbullying, and more. The reason why is simple enough: drama sells news. (As a former newspaper reporter, I even understand the tension that the journalists feel to put the most dramatic element at the top of the story.) Technology has all too often been viewed as some massive unseen force disrupting everyone’s lives in negative ways and corrupting the minds of our young people.
But just as I have noticed a huge shift in interest and acceptance about how technology has impacted our lives with teachers in workshops in recent years, I am beginning to notice lately that articles around technology and young people in magazines seem to be more balanced and offer insights into the positive nature of the digital world, too. Take a look at this week’s Parade Magazine, which has a cover story called Today’s Kids: Born to be Wired.
The story runs multiple pages throughout the magazine and covers a lot of interesting ground — from how kids use texting more than speaking, to the impact of gaming, to what all this may be doing to the wiring of their brains. There’s a nice balance here between being concerned and being aware of the changes now taking place, and offering advice on how parents can at least attempt to navigate through it all. They don’t quite sugarcoat the issues — sexting is an issue that we need to be aware of, for an example, and talking to your children about appropriate use of technology is a key way to address it — but they also point out the ways technology can connect more people together and open doors for collaboration and creativity, too.
This balanced view in popular culture is no doubt part of the Facebook Effect, a phenomenon that we often notice with teachers who come to understand the possibilities of technology for learning in their classrooms or schools only after they are part of the social networking movement. I appreciate Parade Magazine for giving parents a wider view of the digital lives of young people and I hope it opens the door to more conversations at home and at school about the pitfalls and the potential of technology for exploring new areas of expression, writing and connections.
Peace (in the parade),
PS — The magazine has an interesting quiz to find out what kind of “Internet Parent” you are. You can take the quiz here. I did it, and found out I am a “Prepared Parent.” The results say:
By and large, you’re quite confident that you’ve put the right measures in place to manage your children’s online behavior as they grow up—nearly all of the parents in this group had established rules for their children’s Internet usage and they were personally teaching them about the Internet. You feel that the Internet is an enhancement to a well-balanced life—the majority said their kids spent the right amount of time online. And you’re not seriously worried about the Internet and cell phones affecting your kids’ concentration or attention span, either now or in the future. About 23% of the parents surveyed in the PARADE poll were Prepared Parents.