Without a doubt, media and technology have transformed childhood. Today’s children are spending more time with more kinds of screens, at younger ages. A recent study found that children 0-8 years spent an average of 3 hours a day with screens. While video games and cartoons/movies are still uber-popular, Internet has played a major role in the digitalization of their free time. And it is the social aspect of the WWW that draws every young and young-at-heart to it.
Like us, internet-active children are focused on their friends. Among many others, Danah Boyd, a media professor at NYU and a principal researcher at Microsoft, suggests that they use social network websites to connect with people they already know from school, church, activities, etc. They mimic their “offline behavior” online and do the same childish things we used to do back in the days, just using a different platform. So instead of panicking about lost childhood years we, as educators, have a critical role to help them navigate social media safely and intelligently.
Rather than thinking about how we can protect children from the bad things on the Internet, we need to ensure that they are equipped with the tools they need to not only safely navigate the Internet but to benefit from the good it offers. That requires us to think in a different way than we are used to. It is no longer only about protecting them; it is about empowerment and lifelong education so that they can take full advantage of all the new media has to offer. So like we teach children about values like fairness, honesty, and integrity we need to provide them with similar values for the online world.
Selected Resources/Works Cited:
- Everything by Danah Boyd: www.danah.org
- Boyd, Danah. 2009. “Living and Learning with Social Media.” Penn State Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology. State College, PA: April 18.
- Levin, Diane E. Beyond Remote-Controlled Childhood: Teaching Young Children in the Media Age. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2013.
- Jalongo, Mary Renck. Today’s Media Influences on Young Children. www.scholastic.com accessed December 7, 2013 www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/todays-media-influences-young-children
- Taylor, Jim, Dr. Huffington Post. The Bad, the Ugly, and the Good of Children’s Use of Social Media. May 28, 2013 www.huffpost.com accessed December 7, 2013 www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-jim-taylor/the-bad-the-ugly-and-the_b_3346768.html