Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Call to Action: A Reflection on Growing Up Online

On Tuesday night, Frontline aired a program titled Growing Up Online. This program highlighted just how different childhood is now as opposed to when parents of today's teens were growing up. I was concerned that this might be another "witch hunt" type program targeting the Internet as bad.(The Internet is not bad; people make choices to use the Internet in bad ways.) I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a well-balanced reporting of what life is like for today's teens.

When people ask me about web filtering or blocking, I always make mention of the fact that we need to teach our kids how to handle the medium and not "protect" them from it. The Internet is here - there's no going back! Computers are not just a fad contrary to what Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa say jokingly on their show. School is a perfect place for students to learn about productive uses of the tools. This should be a wake-up call to all educators. Media and the Internet are part of our kids' lives and we need to teach them how to handle it. This program, to me, brought this to light.

We don't want our kids to stop talking to us. The only way we are going to keep them communicative is by learning as much as we can about leveraging these tools. Then we can have open sharing and discussions with them about our social networks and the friends we have online. I can talk with my 16 year old son about the people who added me as a friend on Twitter that I ended up blocking and why I blocked them. Without my participation in such an environment, I can't have that conversation with him. It's time parents and teachers use the tools kids are using so we can have open, honest communication with our teens.

You can see the entire program online and join in a discussion at the PBS website.



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