“Growing Up Online”

As many of you know, I teach high school – grades 9 and 12. As they often share with me different aspects of their lives, I am increasingly flabbergasted at the amount of time children spend online. I am actually floored that their way of making friends and interacting with those friends is no longer face to face, but through mediums such as Facebook and MySpace. I am amazed that young people feel a sense of loss when they don’t have access to these sources of relationships. I’m looking back at those last three sentences as I describe how I feel about this online world in which our children engage – flabbergasted, floored, amazed…

(Actually, I shouldn’t be all that amazed. Email has become a vital method of communication in our offices and businesses as well as between our families and friends.)

Maybe I’m overreacting. After all, our daughter will be four years old this spring, and naturally she is increasingly interested in computers, particularly in viewing videos online (since her daddy and I spend a lot of time at the computer). I often think about how we’ll navigate that world with her as she begins elementary school in less than two years.

I was recently made aware of a PBS Frontline program that will air tonight entitled “Growing Up Online,” where “Frontline Investigates The Risks, Realities And Misconceptions Of Teen Life On The Internet.” And lest you think that the only concern is encountering sexual predators online, this program will also discuss “cyber-bullying” and achieving “instant ‘Internet fame’.”

Here are a few quotes from the program’s press release:

“Jessica Hunter was a shy and awkward girl who struggled to make friends at school. Then, at age 14, she reinvented herself online as ‘Autumn Edows,’ an alternative goth artist and model who posted provocative photos of herself on the Web, and fast developed a cult following. ‘I just became this whole different person,’ Jessica tells FRONTLINE. ‘I didn’t feel like myself, but I liked the fact that I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like someone completely different. I felt like I was famous.'”

Through social networking sites, kids with eating disorders share tips about staying thin, and depressed kids can share information about the best ways to commit suicide.”

John Halligan’s son was cyberbullied for months—first at school, then online—before he ultimately hanged himself just weeks into the start of eighth grade.”

Here is a preview video of the broadcast:

(If the video isn’t displayed, click here.)

Whether we’re parents, grandparents, teachers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, or mentors of young people, this should be of interest to all of us. What do you think? Are our children growing up too fast in this online world? What should be done about it? And do you plan to watch the program? (Note: the program will re-air several times and also appear online – according to pbs.org.)

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23 comments

  1. Denise says:

    Hi;
    I’ve recently been more concerned with this myself.

    It is much less stressful for the youth than speaking face to face, or getting to know someone in real life. Take church for ex. We just moved to a new town and my kids are quite wary about joining in. My boys don’t care to wear black, they don’t care to pierce their ears, or wear eyeliner, nor wear pants below their underwear, and they perceive the kids that do as a bit off in the head… lol. Chatting or commenting online takes some of those ‘preferences’ out of the picture. *They* can be their own normal.

    My kids are supervised, I’m a mean mom. They can blog 1 x a week. period. They do not own cell phones with texting. Plus I routinely troll their friend’s blogs and delete them at will. hehe. Plus I make them post their book reports and essays 😀

    Have you considered making up a survey and asking teens some questions?

  2. KWiz says:

    Hi Denise,
    Thank you for your comment. I’ve not developed a formal survey for kids at all, but I will informally ask them about their online activities periodically. When I do ask, students are pretty open, and I am sometimes just so surprised that kids are so open about themselves in this online world.

    How do your children react and respond to your restrictions? It looks like they’re homeschooled, so do they ever have access to their “friend’s” computers?

    Thank you for sharing what you do in your household…

  3. crunchy carpets says:

    We can only wonder what technological ‘magic’ will be around when our kids are teens and adults.

    I actually think it will improve over time…mainly because while our kids are growing up in this cyber age…it is all still a bit mystifying to us oldies.

    teens have totally integrated the cyberworld into their own…their languages have melded together into one…one we struggle to comprehend.

    The latter generations will be raised by children who have grown up in this minefield…a minefield to you and I, but just part of growing up to them.

    I just boggle at my 3.5 year old on the computer. She is so comfortable with it.

  4. TheMrs says:

    It’s no suprise in this world of high tech gadgets and conveniences that children spend much more than a healthy amount of time online. It is sad, but like most things, I think we as parents should regulate the time these young people partake in these modern day ‘conveniences’.

    My niece who is 10, was given a cell phone by her father. I couldn’t believe it. In *my* mind, I know where my 11 and 10 year old ARE, and they are NOT that far, they’ve been given a time to be home, I know the address, the phone number AND the parents names of the children they are spending time with. I don’t get it. Am I wrong?

    The internet is the same sort of thing. Why in the world are kids spending hours upon hours online? Who’s regulating this activity?

    Everything in moderation – but unfortunately – I guess some people just want the easy way out? I honestly don’t know.

    I’m with the poster above. I’m also a ‘mean mom’ because everything from computer time to video game time to tv time is regulated and not a daily activity by any stretch.

    I think we as parents need to put our proverbial foot down and take back our children and let them BE children.

  5. TheDad says:

    We have to keep a close eye on our teen. Snooping is a must and we let him know we have the rights and ability to snoop so anything that you;re doing that you shouldn’t be is fair game. And just to think the Internet wasn’t even around a few years ago.

  6. Pam says:

    It is amazing the time spent on line by today’s kids. It is difficult to control this sometimes as all the class mates seem to be online also. We have to try to be careful about what they are accessing.

  7. Gabriella says:

    Your post made me think about how TV was the thing parents worried and talked about most when I was a kid. Parents always talked about how kids watched too much TV and didn’t go outside and play with their friends. And if they were with their friends, they were just watching TV and not even talking.

    The internet is so much more dynamic than television and, as such, both the rewards and dangers are much greater. However, what it comes down to for me, is the old saying that everything should be taken in moderation, and the internet is no exception.

    Do you think the internet is better or worse than TV for children?

  8. mp1 v.8.0 says:

    I’ve got a soon to be two year old, and she’s becoming attached to the computer. And that’s because her mother and I stay glued to it. That’s going to be her soon, so I should start asking myself those questions.

    I’m apart of that f-book and myspace community. And a lot of times, i don’t even acknowledge those friends in real life. Maybe I need to check myself too, and not just worry about the younger kids.

    On a side note, thanks for incorporating that into the teaching experience. I’m thinking of becoming one, and I truly appreciate the realness that I’m learning here and the other blogs.

  9. Hugh Harris says:

    I thank god i know a lot about computers and how they work..my daughter is 2 years old and i know that pretty soon she’s going to be curious about the computer..I am prepared to know what to do in order for her to be safe…

  10. Evenflo exersaucer says:

    I was amazed these last days, I met some 17-18 years old guys that are kind of great savvy persons when it comes to website promotion. I am in this business and running a business like this but they know more than me in some directions, I feel strange, really!

  11. Michelle Watson says:

    Hi… Most likely yes, but they are also prone to negative effect of this fast growing up online world. Because their being innocence are also fast to gone or influence and we could also say that now a days most of the kids or adolescence are more liberated compared before and one of the main reason that give most influence to them was “Online world”. Parents must also give concern about this new era and teach them the right way on how they handle their new world… By the way, your posted topic are well informative which gives reason to finish my reading. You can also visit my posted topic articles which is about Natural Health Care Products and Health Care Tips as well.

  12. Asher Milgrom says:

    I cant believe that now a days in order for people to make friends they have to go on line…this is ridiculous..people act very different when they are online vs when you are in person. I dont even want to know how they are going to meet people next in the future…

  13. Cathy Mendez says:

    Yes, now a days internet has a big role in the society specially to just minor kids which could easily get their attention. That’s why we have to educate them (specific to minor) the proper usage of this technology on every individual. Anyway, did you know that online has also bad effect to our health which we have to consider as well. To learn more about this health topic you can visit Dr. Joseph Mercola official website and learn the optimal way of a healthy life.

  14. Iggi says:

    As an 18 year old I find this discussion very interesting. Yes, the internet plays a big part in our lives, and with good reason. I believe that everyone who has posted here knows that reason, everdent in the fact that they are blogging. It can be demonstrated. None of you here know who I am or where I live, therefor you cannot directly harm me even if you had the wish. If I am bullied or verbally abused, I can leave or simply change my name. I can be invisable, I can be extrevert, I can be intelegent and perceptive or dumb and ignorent and nobody would ever know the difference. I am safe, in controle, able to be what my mind knows I am at my full potential with no risk and no consequences. Can any of that be said about me in the ‘real world’? Those reasding this have no way of knowing.

  15. Jo Anne Trigo says:

    I totally agree with your comment Iggi. It can serve sometimes as a protection from those who like to harm people…very interesting topic by the way

  16. Vern at AimforAwesome says:

    Cyberbullied? Yikes. That’s a new term for me. I agree it’s frightening to thing about kids online and all they can be subjected to. It’s wide open and the kids know the sites that we don’t. I’m a strong advocate for putting a keylogger on all computers kids use. They need to do it at school as well to monitor for certain phrases used in chats and other places online. The sickest of the sick know how to use a computer to set up a real meeting with a 14 year old who thinks she’s talking to her 16 year old prince charming. The degenerate kidnaps her and does it again and again to other unsuspecting kids. I think we’ll see it just increasing in the years to come. Not enough is being done to protect children from the dirtbags online. Great blog – I enjoyed your comment at Aim also, replied already. Will grab your feed. 🙂 Vern

  17. KWiz says:

    Thanks for your comment, Vern. As a teacher, I frequently have discussions with my students about their online use, especially with Facebook. The more we can communicate with our children, the better informed we are. At least that’s my belief. But my daughter is only 4, and she hasn’t started using the computer yet, so I haven’t had any experience with it yet.

    Thanks for grabbing the feed, Vern!

  18. Alex Tapper says:

    Well, I understand what you are talking about and totally agree that web can become a big problem for kids who can not use it properly. Maybe, the real solution for this problem is global personalisation of web users. For example, to log on the web everyone will have to use his very own ID, or I think fingerprints will work better.. The thing is that we can build this system so that parents or school can limit the time a kid can spend in the web.. You know, if we show enough concern about this problem the government will make the changes. So far, I have lost a couple of friends because of the web. They can not socialize not having a screen in front of them.. Though, for totally lonely, disadvantaged or aged persons the web is a great solution to socialize. I’m sure, there is a lot to discuss in this field.

  19. Guzel Sozler says:

    Yes, now a days internet has a big role in the society specially to just minor kids which could easily get their attention. That’s why we have to educate them (specific to minor) the proper usage of this technology on every individual.

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