#DigiLitSunday: Filters, Floodgates and Us

flickr photo shared by el_finco under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

My son was born on Sept. 11.  Not the date of the horrific attack on the US. A few years later. My wife and I always say that we helped bring healing on 9/11 by bringing a beautiful baby into the world. But now that he is older, and more attuned to the world, he is asking some deep and probing questions about the nature of the attack whose anniversary coincides with his birthday.

Today is his birthday.

For years, we have acted a filter for our kids about 9/11. Not a wall that lets in no information. But as a filter, in which we have tried to let them know of things like the 9-11 attacks, and tried to address some of the reasons (as best as we can discern) for the attacks and the aftermath, and how the world changed suddenly in the aftermath.  We’ve had relatives in war zones and I’ve had friends in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve filtered the information to provide some Truth (or as best we can figure it) without the devastating imagery that comes with it.

It’s a losing battle, ultimately, but as parents (and as educators), we do need to act as curators of digital content for our children. Or we should try. The reality is that filters only go so far, and filters are only as effective as the thinking behind it and the information in front of it, and just beyond the filter lies the floodgates.

flickr photo shared by Alpstedt under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

The Deluge from the Digital eventually will come.

The other day, in the car, as we listened to a story on NPR about rescue workers from 9/11, my son began to pepper me with questions about the event. Why did it happen? Was it just New York? (I reminded him that his uncle worked in the Pentagon in the time after the attack there and how devastated he was to see the Pentagon, and the loss of life). What about the other plane? The one that passengers brought down, sacrificing themselves, in order to thwart an attack? Were they heroes? What would I do if I had been on that plane? Could he watch the movie, Flight 93?

I was still a filter, slightly more open now, given his age. I provided information (and told him he might need to wait on the movie). I am heartened by the number of books for middle age readers now out about 9/11 and am looking for one we can read together.

Still, I fear the floodgates.

I fear the images he might find if he does web searches when I am not there with him. I worry about when he starts to use social media as a teenager, and hears rumors and false stories about tragic events. I worry that the Digital World, which I often celebrate here and in my classroom, might be the harbinger of lost innocence.  I know I am probably already too late, that the world is quicker and bigger and more intrusive than I can ever predict. I’m fast on my feet but not quick enough. I know I can’t be my son’s protector forever.

I know all that.

I still worry about it.

The best we can do with our children and our students is try to be one of the trusted adults they can talk to, and ask questions of, and to be the ones whom they can turn to when the world turns upside down on them — in small ways and in larger ways. To be that kind adult, though, seems like walking on shifting sands so much of the time.

We do what we can and hope for the best.

flickr photo shared by Onasill ~ Bill Badzo under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Peace (and Hope for the Better World),

  1. The best we can do is be someone they can talk to. This means a lot to me as a mother and a friend and a teacher. Sometimes all we have to offer is our ears and our trust. I still find it too difficult to teach about 9/11. Maybe some of these new middle grade books will help. Thanks for posting today.

  2. The floodgates and deluge that the world offers at our fingertips are too much to handle alone. Too much to process.. Having a loving human nearby to freely talk with is necessary. For kids and adults. Sometimes it is just too much.

  3. This reminds me of how I felt as an elementary teacher immediately following the attack at Columbine. In that moment, I actually longed for pre-telegraph days before current events. In many ways, there’s no going back. On a practical level, I highly recommend the website and tablet app News-O-Matic. My wife uses it with her third and fourth grade students. The writers do a great job presenting sensitive and tough-to-talk-about issues with developmental appropriateness and care.

  4. Floodgates is a great term to describe the state of information available to students these days. Thanks for the mental image. Best of luck with your attempts to filter (the waterfall images fit perfectly, too).

  5. Kevin, I also thought deeply about 9/11 today since my community was hit so hard 15 years ago. I did not use this post for DigiLit Sunday but I will share it here. I actually had two versions with the later one geared for a lesson with younger children and adolescents. I appreciate your reflective comments and agree with you: …as parents (and as educators), we do need to act as curators of digital content for our children.

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