Notes and Reaction from “Growing Up Online”

Here are some notes and reactions to the “Growing Up Online” special as it goes…

  • Some initial introductions, showing students as deceptive about online activity and generally showing parents as luddites
  • Scenes from schools, teachers claiming that they need to be “entertainers” and that it is difficult for students to focus and can not be engaged in thoughtful discussion
    • Students who haven’t read books because they don’t have time; rule at high school that they aren’t supposed to be using Spark Notes — is this cheating?
    • Students have to submit papers to turnitin.com; searching for instances of plagiarism
    • Do we fight against this, or accept it as reality as how the outside world works — borrowing and stealing as cheating or not
    • “Fighting the good fight” — to keep up educational standards
  • Social networking — the hub of online social life
    • Kids vie forgetting the most friends through MySpace or Facebook — you have to admit that you only know a few of the friends that you meet online
    • These are also the place where kids seem to hash out their conflicts, too
    • Fight recorded and put on YouTube; students reflected on the implications for college and jobs
    • Things that adults take seriously – discretion and privacy – are taken for granted
  • Relationships
    • Sending pictures in provocative settings
    • “You kinda want to look hot, but not too hot”
    • Social networking as a digital representation of identiy; teens are trying on different identities — C.J. Pascoe, Berkely
  • Example of Jessica Hunter
    • Was made fun of in school, led to insercurity
    • Online, she was reborn as “Autumn Edows” and her parents didn’t know
    • Dad – she just disappeared and we would never see here
    • I was fourteen, but looked older and people started noticing – “I was on the computer all day, replying… It was crazy, but I loved it.”
    • “I didn’t feel like myself, but I liked that I didn’t feel like myself.”
    • Dad – call from principal, another parent saw a picture that was “pornographic” as far as she was concerned
    • Jessica’s parents took the computer and looked at every single file – where does the information go and how is it perceived
    • The fame and hundreds of friends were gone as quickly as it had begun – “It seems stupid that I am getting upset over it… but having it taken away is your worst nightmare.”
    • “My fear is that my good kids will make a bad decision… and will pay for it permanently.”
  • Safety and social networking
    • Safe community, but social networking has punctured the safety net
    • What if a stalker gets obsessed with my children?
    • Kids think that nothing bad can happen to them
    • Media coverage of online predators; To Catch a Predator
    • Congressional hearings on predators
    • Son – my mom has always been catious, yet she is overbearing and is having a hard time getting past that
    • One family computer is stationed in the computer
    • Who gets the passwords – should the mom have access to them? Daughter – “It’s my own stuff”
    • “My parents forget that I have been online since second grade.”
    • Only one major study of predators online by Department of Justice that showed most kids know to avoid predatory practices online.
    • Kids engage in a lot more risky behavior offline. Most solicitations were very slight – Danah Boyd
    • Need to begin thinking about what students can do to each other
  • Sara – eating disorders
    • I have a happy-go-lucky life, and then the real life online; thinspiration
    • I will go online and be the anorexic person that I am – some days I am completely ana, other days I am not
    • My parents know nothing is that I like to eat healthy and exercise
  • Sharing on the internet
    • Putting myself out there
    • Power to act on impulse and that is where trouble happens
    • Example of students posting video from concert – some parents were appreciative, and others were mad
    • Students were mad, too, because they were getting in trouble
    • Mom – it is really hard to be on the other side, even though I remember keeping secrets
    • What is next – where else will they hang out that we can’t find them, control them?
  • Cyberbullying
    • Boy who committed suicide after being bullied
    • Others who didn’t realize what was happening, including parents who thought bullying was at school
    • When a popular girl flirted with him on IM, she humiliated him at school
    • the computer amplified the pain that he was feeling in the real world
    • The internet has become a new weapon in the adolescent arsenal
    • We need to teach them good cybercitizenship
  • Fundamental change in the way of life today — Danah Boyd
    • Jessica back online as Autumn Edows
      • Dad — looking for a way to create and reach out
      • My parents do support me
    • Sarah — told parents about eating disorder

Join the conversation online: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/talk/

The program provided a thoughtful analysis of adolescents and their online lives, including some of the positive possibilities that kids can engage in as they compose alternative identities. Of course, the dangers were explored, yet they were contextualized in a smart way and in contrast to what we see in traditional news media (for instance, who are the predators and how are kids approached). One thing that I was disappointed about (in the general trends of teens online, not the program itself) was how many of the teens presented are really only using the internet for social networking and feeding their narrow interests, whereas only one teen was shown seriously reconsidering her identity and the positive implications that brought. Where are the kids who are — in thoughtful and productive ways — creating their own content and distributing it to a worldwide audience? What are we doing to push them to use the potential of the internet beyond simply being on Facebook? All in all, a very useful report, one that I might use to show students in my classes.

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