Currently I am reading Born Digital- Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but was intrigued by a couple of quotes from the book regarding how those who are not digital natives have reacted to the increasing amount of social communication that is taking place on the web.
“There is a huge risk that we, as a society, will fail to harness the good than can comes from these opportunities as we seek to head off the worse of the problems. Fear, in many cases, is leading to overreaction, which in turn could give rise to greater problems as young people take detours around the roadblocks we think we are erecting.”
This is exactly the point that many technology integration leaders are trying to make. Parents/teachers/administrators/community leaders are doing more harm than good by failing to acknowledge that this is not going away and will take what they feel are the necessary steps to protect our young children. Young people will find ways around those roadblocks that are placed in their way and will do so blind.
The author goes on to say…
“Instead of emphasizing education and giving young people the tools and skills they need to keep themselves safe, our lawmakers talk about banning certain sites or keeping kids under eighteen out of social networks. Instead of trying to figure out what going on with kids and digital media, the entertainment industry has gone to war against them, suing its young customers by the tens of thousands. Instead of preparing kids to manage a complex and exploding information environment, governments around the world are passing laws against certain kinds of publications, making the banning of books look like a quaint, harmless activity. At the same time, we do next to nothing in terms of taking the kinds of steps that need to be taken if we are to address the real concerns facing our kids.”
The fear of our kids being exposed to something bad as created a hands-off approach by adults and a false sense of security. “I don’t allow my kids to do that kind of stuff, therefore they are not doing it! Kind of reminds of my high school days… Instead of treating it as a subject that is off limits, we need to open our arms, embrace it and have conversations, not lectures, with our young people. How are you using it, who do you talk to the most, what kind of information do you share with others?
By having conversations with our young people as they create their identities and communicate with the world, we can learn how to help them navigate safely and ease our fears. Like that anti-drug commercial, “Don’t be a Patsy”, starting a conversation and continuing the open dialogue will go far.