Beauty Contests? What Will It Take for Us to Really Lead Our Digital Kids?

socialmediakidsIt is a truth universally acknowledged that whenever a new technology feature comes into vogue, children and adolescents come into possession of digital skills in want of copious adult tutelage.

Or at least this should be universally acknowledged.

Just now, in my part of the world, we are in the midst of an Instagram beauty contest phase. Interestingly, however, parents and educators who have spent the past 10 years connected in any way to the teen-tween digital world will recognize that, at a minimum, this is actually beauty contest 3.0.

I recall two other student beauty contest episodes, each occurring on a different digital playground. Initially they appeared on make-your-own websites, then on MySpace. Now we have Instagram.

As I said the other morning to a concerned mom, behaviors get recycled each time a neat new whiz-bang digital opportunity emerges. Typical kid behavior gets paired with a powerful app, but mostly without benefit of that adult tutelage referred to above. Also, kids love contests so it’s natural that the idea comes up.

Children are growing up in two worlds. Families and schools now have two childhood environments to supervise —  face-to-face and the digital — and kids are learning and playing in two places, irrevocably intertwined. School and home guidance acclimate children mostly to the face-to-face world, assuming that the lessons automatically carry over to digital endeavors. They don’t.

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More Apps, More Experimenting, More Tween-Teen Public Mistakes

Image snapped on my mobile device.

Image snapped on my mobile device.

Read Washington Post reporter Cecilia Kang’s April 6, 2013 article, Instagram Beauty Contests Worry Parents, Privacy Advocates, a piece that brings teachers and parents up to date on the current Instagram beauty contest craze among tweens and younger teens.

It’s all so simple. Combine normal growing up with unsupervised digital device apps and add in kids’ occasionally poorly thought-out decisions — and you have a recipe for problems. Many educators, who are aware on a daily basis of the increasing difficulties created by kids’ freewheeling app use, will tell you that it’s predictable. Also, it’s destructive to 21st Century learning communities.

An April 4, 2013 post, Beauty Is Only Skin Deep but Instagram Is to the Bone, by Huffington Post blogger Holly Actman Becker, offers a chatty but detailed romp through the current beauty contest experience from a mom’s perspective and with an interesting result. (Note: I enjoyed reading this post, but if you prefer your prose formal and straight-laced, this isn’t for you. I also wonder just how the author did not know that the minimum age is 13?)

Make no mistake –I love my digital devices. I enjoy using them, talking about them, and sharing information about how they work with my students. Moreover, I do not believe that children and adolescents should have their mobile devices taken away. (OK, a few of these children do need to have an old-fashioned time out from their new-fangled gadgets.)  Continue reading

Getting to Know Instagram – Links to Bring Adults Up to Speed

In a matter of weeks last spring quite a few older elementary and middle school children whom I know jumped on the Instragram bandwagon, and they continue to have fun with it. The social networking photography app, now owned by Facebook, lives on their wireless devices, making it easy to use without getting encumbered with computers.

The minimum age for the Instagram app is 13, but that hasn’t stopped the site from attracting many children younger than that. While I tend to be someone who takes age requirements seriously, many parents, after checking out various sites, are more comfortable than I am with letting their children use sites when they are a bit younger than 13 years of age.

The biggest challenge for adults is keeping an eye on the content and quality of the photos that their children are uploading to Instagram. Problems can occur when children err in judgement as they make decisions about what to share (and what not to share).

In any event, all of us — parents, teachers, and any other adults in children’s lives — need to learn more about Instagram. I’ve added the app to my phone and plan to get acquainted with it. The list of articles below offers parents and teachers lots of information  — how Instagram works and how children socialize when they use the social networking app with their friends.         Continue reading