Growing Up Online

Posted on February 29, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

by Tim Cushman

Watch the PBS Frontline Special Growing Up Online: Just How Radically is the Internet Transforming the Experience of Childhood?

Ask any teacher with more than fifteen years of teaching experience about the current generation and he or she will typically respond with a single word – different. Different, because the traditional way of teaching is a striking contrast to the way in which most students interact with technology during their leisure time. I think my own educational experiences as a child are similar to that of most Americans on the wrong side of 30 – absorb facts via lecture, read the textbook, memorize terms and definitions for the test…repeat. Definitive knowledge was canonized in encyclopedias and textbooks and was meant to be mastered for those with enough diligence. The idea of “media consumption” was unheard of and was primarily encapsulated in the form of radio programming and network television – both mediums limited for me. Cable television was a luxury and not something that held much value for my parents. I spent many afternoons and weekends reading or exploring the neighborhood with my friends and siblings.

Contrast that image with today’s student inundated by technology. Social networking sites, texting on cell phones, on-demand entertainment, portable gaming…it’s all a little much for most adults who grew up much the same way I did. Many teachers and parents are unfamiliar with the virtual world and are so intimidated by the pace and volume of all things digital that they simply leave their students/children to traverse this world alone. This disconnection has become more than a generational gap. The ubiquity and ease of Web applications has made socializing easy and very addicting. It is vital that parents and educators familiarize themselves with both the potentials and pitfalls of the Internet, particularly the social aspects. Children need adult guidance in the virtual world as much as they do in the physical world.

PBS’s Frontline program aired a special in late January 2008. If you missed the original broadcast, you can view the program at the PBS website by clicking here. This program is a primer of sorts on current trends. We educators are always pressed for time, so I suggest starting with part 2 of the program (9 minutes long) – A Revolution in Classrooms and Social Life. There is also a teacher’s guide if you would like to incorporate some of the activities into your classroom.

One final thought that will not be pursued in this post, but is important nonetheless. Education does need to change. I strongly suggest reading the article from Marc Prensky titled Backup Education.

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28 Responses to “Growing Up Online”

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The article was very interesting. It makes you stop and think about what you are teaching and will it help the student beyond the moment.

Cyber bullying and sexting are two areas that scare me. I do agree with everything that has been said. Parents think that nothing bad will happen to their child and set no boundaries. The Facebook and texting are addictions.

There have always been dangers “out there” for all generations. However, todays youth have an innocence on the internet that it is difficult to prepare them for because parents/teachers are ignorant to what the dangers are on the internet. The students are so much more advanced in technology and adults as a whole are still too intimidated to find out the basics. How can we prepare them for something we know very little about?

All this is very scary to me. I think about where kids are headed and I can’t even fathom. But at the same time I have to acknowledge the digital advancements and use them to meet students where they are and bring them to where we need them to go.

This information is very real to me as I have children in both age ranges, teens and elementary school age. I could relate to the video games, both the war games and club penguin. I could relate to the girls posting pictures as I constantly feel like I reprimand my daughter about what she is posting. I always get the same line from my children stating that Mom, you did not have this available to you, that is why you don’t understand. I do feel like I have lost some control of my children and I often feel as if they have two separate lives. I truly don’t like it, but I don’t know how I would change it.

“Growing Up On-line” scares me! Yes, I know and have known about the dangers of the internet, yet the reality shown in this PBS special gives me a different perspective! Real lives…real faces! I want my grown children to be aware, really aware of these things for their children and our grandchildren!
Yes, as an educator I know that we need to change to meet the needs of our students and I am very willing to do that.

I strongly believe that education has to change to continue to reach the learners of the 21st century. Our students are growing up in a digital age, and we need to meet them where they are. Technology started to really take off when I was in high school, and I remember how exciting it was to hear “you’ve got mail” when logging into AOL! Who knew email could be so amazing? Now we have evolved from email to text messaging. Our students are constantly connected with others. In the classroom, we need to make sure we take that into account and give our students outlets for communication. We also need to teach our students to be responsible when using the Internet. The Internet can be a wonderful tool, but it can also be dangerous for our kids. I think it is important for us to begin teaching safety during elementary school.

I am hoping that as parents evolve as Digital Natives it will be easier to guide our children through good choices on how to use the Internet and what it may morph into as it changes.

The mom in the piece was over the top in my opinion. Her fear of the all that she had investigated on the internet underminded her trust. Her kids were not able to trust her because she was so reactionary. Careful parenting includes trust and not being reactionary. Unfortunately her over the top reaction ended up alienated her child from her. My girls are felt safe enough to allow me to have their passwords to Facebook the whole time they were in high school until now as young adults. We need to be cautious, but over reaction can be dangerous.

There have been jungles (of danger) as long as there have been man. The internet is just a different type of jungle. It is up to the parent to teach the child where the danger lies. Unfortunately, the parents of today have never been exposed to the internet jungle. Thus they cannot teach the child where to go to avoid the tigers and snakes.

This was a very interesting video. I do think that technology is a great tool to tap into as a teacher. However, I do think that we need to realize how much students rely on technology today and how much it is controlling their lives. This video was very eye opening in that it shows how children/teenagers are living through the internet and it is costing many of them their lives. How sad and scary for parents who are trying to keep their children safe but are having a difficult time doing so because of the internet and technology today.

One word. Scary. In some ways it’s heartening that we’re becoming a global cuture, but in another way that global culture is one of disconnect. Connected online, but not physically connected. I see a mom in the supermarket ignoring her child while talking on the phone and it gives me shivers. What’s so important that you ignore your child? So it’s great that we’re growing “closer”, but at what price?

In the video there is a point where something is said similar to , Its not the predators online that parents have to worry about, its what their child chooses to do online. That really stuck with me, because that is what is hitting the news now-cyberbullying, sexting… .

This really was an eye opening video, however I feel it was skewing the view of the viewer in a negative way. This one aspect of the video was that of parental involvement. The parents that were not involved with their child’s lives had them become softcore porn stars or they would commit suicide. And the only parent invovlement they did show was that of one where the mother was overbearing and allowed her children to have say in things they shouldn’t be until their 18. I think if they had shown a parent who was actively involved in their child’s life and set boundries with them to begin with, this video might have had a slightly different light to it. And you know its out there cause so many kids do know about internet safety and matters concerning it.

Teachers and students need to use the technology but it is important that students also learn the limits.

Just watched the entire “Growing Up Online” Frontline show posted on the Online Course. I strongly urge any of you who have children of your own to watch the entire hour. My kids even kept coming over to watch. It is very compelling. I know we didn’t have to post for this, but I NEEDED to. See you tomorrow.

This was an interesting article to read. I have 2 teenagers and one desperately trying to be one and I definelty see the problems with them growing up online. The lack of discrection and privacy are very scary for me as a parent. If not for us parents, who can restrict these kids from going down roads they should not be on. Just because we have it does not always mean we have to use it.

I feel that technology has just grown beyond what we as educators has can keep up with. Everyday I’m hearing of things that can happen with technology. Students can do this from their desks with their hidden phones.

This article was insightful and brought my understanding of online useage to a whole new level. Today, the kids have one more instant way to communicate with the world and everyone is able to access this info, simply hit SEND. While this is exciting, it is scary and once it is out there, it can not be retrieved…..

I am caught in the middle of growing up with technology. I think that most of the people that I taught several years ago can run cirlcles around the students I have today knowledge wise. Yes the students of today have access to just about anything they want, and I think it has made them lazy and unwillling to work hard. If it does not come easy for them they shut down. I think technology is a wonderful tool, but students are more distracted than before.

Many kids cannot put a face on “danger” in the world of technology just as they could not put a face on the “stranger” in their parents’ worldview of what or whom to be wary of. Young people also feel invincible.

Multi-tasking is a common problem among young and old; we are all under pressure to get everything done and not miss out on anything.

It is so true that it is a challenge for teachers who did not grow up with this virtual world to feel comfartable teaching in it. It is imperative that we as educators and parents do keep up for the safety of our children and students.

How well I remember the World Book Encyclopedia! Yes, I have been teaching 27 years and learning has changed. I do believe it is a different world for our students today. They are very involved with media of all kinds. They manuever between ipods, Nintendos, tvs with ease, much more so than many adults! We need to captivate their energy and their enthusiasm and find a happy medium using it. We must also be aware of what the children are doing and provide guidance in proper usage. it is learning experience for us both!

Today it is the internet, who knows what it will be tomorrow. Each generation of teachers and students has always faced new and different challenges. It will continue to be the responsibility of educators to meet these challenges head on as we prepare our students for the future.

I love technology and I enjoy incorporating it in the classroom, to stay ahead of the students and keep them interested. However, it is so important to set expectations and boundaries with technology in the classroom (and at home). I appreciate the discussions on this site about privacy. Students are less and less private. Also, you really can find just about anything on the net. The example being set for them is for everything to be public (with reality TV shows and such). I believe parents need to do what they can to educate themselves on technology so they can monitor and regulate children using the internet and other forms of this ever-growing phenomenon.

Tim brings up some interesting points. I find myself “in the middle”…I was brought up similarly to Tim, but was one of the first groups to communicate significantly through email in college. I have found by implementing my blog in my classroom and by observing my kids that they ARE in a world completely inundated with technology, and they love it! So it is only proper that we USE that to teach them, and let it be for “good and not evil.” This means, we seriously need to make sure they know how to use the internet appropriately and be safe about it!!

Having 3 children of my own, I feel it’s very important to teach them about the virtual world as well as the physical world. However, I know they will learn so much from just doing it! Right now, I am just mainly focused on teaching them how to ride a bike, read, be nice to others, and just love playing! I will focus on the virtual world a little later when it matters more!

I agree that we need to keep up with current trends, so that we can be as informed as the students! I would also hope we could encourage ways to utilize technology in safe and positive ways.


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    The School District of Greenville County – Instructional Technology Department

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