Wired Pursuits

Archive for the ‘Teenagers & social media’ Category

Title: Grown up Digital

Author: Don Tapscott

Pub Date: 2009

grownupdigitalThis is Tapscott’s update to Growing up Digital and it attempts to address how the Internet, social networking, and this new world of hyper-connected world is shaping and reshaping today’s “net generation” (i.e., those between 11-31 years old).

The book addresses 9 different “concerns and criticisms” that Tapscott says are often voiced by parents, journalists, employers, and academics.  Specifically:

  • They’re not as smart as previous generations were at their age (agree with Tapscott, this is not my experience).
  • They’re loosing their social skills (maybe, but isn’t that our job to teach them?).
  • They have no shame (did you when you were that age?).
  • They’re being “coddled” by their parents are unable to make commitments (not sure what that has to do with the Internet).
  • They steal (maybe – it is more anonymous online).
  • They bully their friends online (are there really more bullies or is this just a new approach?).
  • They’re violent (could be, suspect that’s directly related to playing violent games?).
  • They have no work ethic (have heard this from other business owners).
  • They are narcissistic (ahh, their mostly teenagers).
  • They don’t give a damn (not my experience).

He spends much of the book debunking each of these issues and uses many examples from research he and others have conducted to bolster his arguments.

There are 2 main themes that stood out for me:

1. Net Gener’s brains are wired different.

Tapscott claims we are seeing “the first case of a generation that is growing up with brains that are wired differently from those of the previous generation.”

While there’s been debate about whether this is true, I do see a difference in how the Net Geners process information.  They just think about information differently.  I believe that older generations tend to think of things in a more linear, hierarchical way, while today’s youth create more dynamic, multi-nodal maps of information. (If there are studies that look into this, let me know.)

I do agree with Tapscott that Net Geners appear to be able to more easily jump from one topic to another.  I also think they are better able to see interconnections between what we old folks might think of as disparate topics.

2. Education must change to accommodate this new way of thinking.

Tapscott spends a good deal of time bashing the current education system (especially higher ed) for their antiquated approach to teaching.

He spends quite a few pages talking about how teaching should be more interactive, a two-way dialog that takes into account individual’s learning styles. He urges educators to “step off the state and start listening and conversing instead of just lecturing.”

Tapscott suggests that this new interactive style is driven from Net Gener’s experiences with the Internet and how they learn.

I would humbly disagree.  What Tapscott describes is just good teaching techniques. It was good teaching 20 years ago when I taught school and I don’t believe it’s changed dramatically. What has changed is the tools that educators can use to make classrooms more dynamic and interactive, and I would add, maybe an expectation on the part of learners that it would be more fun.

I’ve always ascribed to the philosophy that learning must be fun and entertaining.  I would hope that all educators seek to create a more individualized, interactive approach to teaching such as Tapscott suggests.

A deeper look into the data would be helpful.

For me, some of Tapscott’s conclusions were too broad based.  I wanted to dive deeper into the data and take a more critical view of the conclusions that were drawn. Occasionally Tapscott focused only on the data that supported his conclusions, and overlooked data that might raise more questions.

For example, when discussing whether social media is creating a less social generation, he suggests kids today are more social because they are spending more time interacting with friends than their parents did.  He quotes a teenager as saying he prefers to use instant messaging rather than in person communications because “it allows you to think about your responses, motives, and overall reduces the awkwardness of conversations.”

The conclusion I drew from this statement was that while kids may be communicating with more people than ever before, they may be using social media to avoid more personal forms of communication. I don’t see how the amount of time online directly relates to an individual’s ability to “socialize.”  It could, in fact, impede it depending on what your definition of “being social” is.

Some kids may be using social media to avoid face-to-face interactions.  And if that is the case, the “awkwardness” will never go away resulting in an individual who is never able to practice and improve these skills.

Bottom line: Interesting read taken with a grain of salt.

In general I agreed with Tapscott’s positive assessment of Net Geners.  As with all technology, there are positive and negative effects.  Technology is shaping Net Geners, but Net Geners are also shaping technology, and often in positive ways.

The book is filled with many examples of new and innovative uses for social media/networks, however, I found that many of the points made in earlier chapters are often repeated unnecessarily.

It raised many more questions for me, so I’m thankful for that.  However, a more critical look at the research might have been more revealing and conclusive.

The Internet and the assortment of devices available to connect with it have opened up tons of ways to interact, share, and connect with others. Today’s youth are the first generation to grow up with this new way of sharing and many are not shy about what they share.

Their apparent disregard for the potential risks of all this sharing has created lots of anxiety for parents, teachers, and scholars.  Many are warning kids to be careful what they put online and predicting that what youth share today will become a problem for them in later years.

When I was your age. Not.

But here’s the problem that is unique to this issue – kids today don’t have anyone to learn from. Parents, teachers, and older relatives who would typically mentor or coach youth on the perils of certain activities can’t tell stories about their personal experiences in an effort to warn or teach youth what to watch out for.

Grandma can’t pull Junior aside and tell him how the beer pong photos she posted on Facebook were found by her boss putting her in bad light with him for years to come. Parents can try to reach their kids with “When I was your age…” stories.

I know from experience that the younger generation often don’t think their parents know or understand what their lives are like and this time they’re actually right. We’ve got no lessons learned to pass down and that give us even less credibility in their eyes.

Today’s youth are forging new territory.

Certainly we’ve all heard stories of people getting fired or not hired because of information they’ve posted, however, it’s not all that common. We’re also not likely to personally know someone who’s been negatively affected by sharing too much. This, combined with the common “it won’t happen to me” teenage mantra, means today’s youth are navigating this new territory all on their own.

Questions to ask yourself…

  1. Are today’s youth putting themselves at risk by sharing too much?
  2. If you think they are, what do you feel would be useful in helping them understand the risks?

Just had an experience that, for me, clearly illustrates the differences between the younger and older generation (and yes, I’m putting myself in the latter) when it comes to technology.

I’m sitting on the balcony of an oceanfront condo where my family and I are staying.  A huge storm started building and I looked up to see a tornado (or more correctly a water spout) about 20 yards off the shore over the water.  It snaked way up into the sky and was spitting water every which way over the ocean.

I immediately yelled to everyone to come see (this was a first for us).  I was content to sit and experience the moment, but both my college-age girls yelled, “Take a photo,” then reached for their ever present cell phones.  My oldest was immediately texting all her friends and sending images before the thing even left our sight.

The difference?  It never occurred to me to record the event, but it was like second nature to my kids who grew up with a “capture the moment” mindset.

­For those of you over 30 and especially anyone in their 40’s, it’s a totally different world out there when it comes to being social. The web has radically changed how the younger generation interacts with each other. Today’s teen doesn’t know a world without the Internet, IM, or cell phones. Heck, they can barely remember not having iPods, Flickr, and MySpace.

They’re wired, and wired to each other 24×7. Communications is liquid, flowing from one source to another, creating connections based on likes, dislikes, music, movies, unicorns, you name it.

Some stats…

  • 93% of American teens use the Internet compared to 70% of American adults.
  • 64% of online teens ages 12-17 have participated in one or more among a wide range of content-creating activities on the Internet.
  • 55% of online teens ages 12-17 have created a profile on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace.
  • And my favorite, teenagers think email “is for old people” (according to a study by The Pew Trusts).

I started playing around with social media a couple years ago when I create a Facebook page (contrary to my kids believing I was stalking them online, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about). It changes how you think.  It makes communications more fluid and timeless. But I know that I’m still not thinking about social media the same way they do, because they don’t have to “think” about it – it’s just part of who they are.

So if you want a glimpse into their heads, just ask them to tell you about what they do online all day (and night). Or better yet, watch their reactions when you explain what a busy signal is (was), or talk about a time when there wasn’t call waiting, voice mail, cell phones, or instant messaging.

To see comments, go to original post on Erickson Barnett Blog.

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