Last Monday I read three powerful articles, and they fit together like a puzzle. They illustrate how a generational digital divide accentuates adolescent virtual world problems — a result of the contradictory digital perceptions of teens and adults.
POISONED WEB: A Girl’s Nude Photo and Altered Lives, appeared in the New York Times. The article describes how small, teenage misjudgments in the unsupervised world of instant web, smartphones, and cyber-bullying, can magnify hate and cause terrible pain. Reporter Jan Hoffman quotes adults who wish they had supervised more carefully and pledge to do more in the future. I wondered, as I often do when I read these articles, what leads adults not to supervise in the first place? Reading about the teachers, administrators, and officials who attempted to create opportunities for growth and learning out of the senseless hurt and cruelty was a highlight of the article.
Are We Ready to Stop Labeling Ourselves Digital Immigrants? — an amazing and thoughtful post at A Space for Learning, gets to the heart of the digital divide issue. The author writes:
I’ve stopped buying the argument of digital natives versus digital immigrants as a rationale for why we boomers can’t learn to use new technologies.
My thoughts? Adults, in general, need to figure out how to stop joking (my daughter uses the word demeaning) about their poor digital skills. Attempts at “bad technology” humor send one clear message — adults are not in charge of kids’ virtual welfare, and these attitudes may well set the stage for digital problems. Why is it that while many of us are deeply committed to lifelong learning, we have difficulty modeling the learning philosophy when it comes to technology? This issue motivated me to write the first post on this blog, Parents, Please Don’t Belittle Yourselves in June 2010.
The final article I read on Monday was the pediatricians’ new social media policy, The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents and Families — the latest in a series of precise and well thought through digital guidelines, including specific suggestions for physicians, children, and their parents. I discovered and read all of them when I completed two excellent graduate media literacy courses with Professor David Considine at Appalachian State University.
Pediatricians were among the first doctors to see the collaborative advantages of the Internet — how it could help their patients and how it could help physicians work together over long distances. When they observed potential problems, these doctors studied the issues — again and again. Instead of mongering fear or throwing up their hands (note inappropriate headlines about their report from the last week), they figured out what needed to be done, how to be better physicians, how to encourage their patients to be more responsible, and how to advise parents. Pediatricians began this process way back in the 1990s, regularly providing digital world roadmaps for families.
No one is at fault here. Rather we are living in a fast-paced and wildly changing era — a time that has promoted intense confusion. Everyone needs to “get with” the technology program.