by Jason Phillips
Just over a year ago, we published a technology issue of The PATH. As with all things tech-y, progress has been progressing and we have continued to compile articles about kids, technology, education, and Montessori. Summer is a good time to take a look at what’s being said about kids and tech. There’s a lot to read, but I’ve tried to align the following articles with Montessori stages of development so it is easier to find what’s applicable to your own kids or students.
Toddlers and Casa Kids
There are some scary messages out there when it comes to toddlers/Casa-aged kids and technology. One of my favourite alarmist articles, that got considerable play on the social media sharing field, was published in the U.K.’s The Telegraph newspaper this past April. “Toddlers becoming so addicted to iPads they require therapy” claims that kids “as young as four” can become “addicted” to technology and require intensive therapy. The article cites Dr. Richard Graham, who “said that young technology addicts experienced the same withdrawal symptoms as alcoholics or heroin addicts, when the devices were taken away.” (As is pointed out in “The Touch-Screen Generation ,” an article I will look at in more depth later, there is still some debate over whether or not the term “addiction” can be applied to technology). The article also points out that Dr. Graham “launched the UK’s first technology addiction programme three years ago” and that “Parents who have found themselves unable to wean their children off computer games and mobile phones are paying up to £16,000 for a 28-day ‘digital detox’ programme designed by Dr. Graham at the Capio Nightingale Hospital in London.”
Other than kids becoming crack tech-heads, though, what implications does increasing engagement with technology have for children’s development? “The Impact of Technology on the Developing Child” argues that contemporary tech use is detrimental to development. Pediatric Occupational Therapist Cris Rowan outlines the impact of the loss of a number of facets of childhood and family life associated with increased tech use — physical activity, imagination, and family time and activities — and connects the losses to childhood development:
So what is the impact of technology on the developing child? Children’s developing sensory, motor, and attachment systems have biologically not evolved to accommodate this sedentary, yet frenzied and chaotic nature of today’s technology. The impact of rapidly advancing technology on the developing child has seen an increase of physical, psychological and behavior disorders that the health and education systems are just beginning to detect, much less understand. Child obesity and diabetes are now national epidemics in both Canada and the U.S., causally related to technology overuse. Diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are associated with technology overuse, and are increasing at an alarming rate. An urgent closer look at the critical factors for meeting developmental milestones, and the subsequent impact of technology on those factors, would assist parents, teachers and health professionals to better understand the complexities of this issue, and help create effective strategies to reduce technology use.
Another ramification Rowan discusses is the impact of technology on what she calls the “Four critical factors necessary to achieve healthy child development… movement, touch, human connection, and exposure to nature.” She discusses the implications of technology relative to these factors in terms of neurological development, and calls on “parents, teachers and therapists to help society ‘wake up’ and see the devastating effects technology is having not only on our child’s physical, psychological and behavioral health, but also on their ability to learn and sustain personal and family relationships.”
Sounds bad so far, doesn’t it? (Don’t worry, there’s better news coming). It doesn’t get much better in “A Nation of Kids With Gadgets and ADHD,” in which Margaret Rock looks at relations between tech and the rise in ADHD diagnoses. “Researchers are reluctant to say there is a direct correlation between gadgets and ADHD,” Rock writes, “but there are strong parallels between the upswing in diagnoses and an increase of screen time.” Her article also contains a number of videos of talks by people working in the field, and she ends with a positive perspective put forth by author Stephen Shore: “Rather than look at the issue as a problem, Shore believes we need to view it as a challenge. ‘These games are compelling to the kids, and instead of battling to eliminate them, we could use them to actually develop social skills,’ he said.”
In addition to possible links to increases in ADHD, technology is also implicated in robbing children of all-important creativity skills. “Is technology sapping children’s creativity?” by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, professor emerita of education at Lesley University, author of “Taking Back Childhood,” and the mother of two artist sons, Matt and Kyle Damon, points out that “While electronic games for young children are flooding the market (72 percent of iTunes’ top-selling ‘education’ apps are designed for preschoolers and elementary school children), the research on their impact is scant.” Carlsson-Paige goes on to note a decrease in creativity due to decrease in play: “Researchers who have tracked children’s creativity for 50 years are seeing a significant decrease in creativity among children for the first time, especially younger children from kindergarten through sixth grade. This decline in creativity is thought to be due at least in part to the decline of play.”
In discussing the significance of play to development, Carlsson-Paige writes lines that could have come from a Montessori text: “When they play with materials, children are building a foundation for understanding concepts and skills that form the basis for later academic learning.”
The problem with play shifting from a material basis to a technology context is directly in line with the focus during Montessori Casa years on Practical Life and engagement with material objects. Carlsson-Paige elucidates it as follows:
What children see or interact with on the screen is only a representation of things in the real world…[and is] limited to what happens between the child and a device — it doesn’t involve the whole child’s body, brain, and senses. In addition, the activity itself and how to do it is already prescribed by a programmer. What the child does is play according to someone else’s rules and design. This is profoundly different from a child having an original idea to make or do something…I can imagine studies might show that children can learn specific facts or skills by playing interactive games — such as how to count to 10. But parents should not be fooled into thinking this kind of learning is significant or foundational.
She also looks at how screen time affects relationships and where to look for guidance (American Academy of Pediatrics and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity) sources that echo the Canadian Paediatric Society’s recommendations of no screen time for kids under two and limits for older kids.
As a final word, she offers: “our own ingenuity and inventiveness as parents is the best and sometimes most untapped resource of all.”
Advice from the Canadian Paediatric Society (Canadian sources! Yay!) comes in “Is your toddler too young for a tablet?” wherein they recommend: “only minimal screen time for two to four year olds, maxing out at one hour per day. And for children before age two, screen time of any kind is discouraged. According to a CPS report, screen time can negatively impact ‘cognitive and psychosocial development and may adversely affect body composition.'”
As for the increasingly ubiquitous educational apps, the article quotes University of British Columbia education professor Don Krug:
“From between the ages of three and five, young people using applications that have some kind of a language-based association are actually increasing their ability to use language,” Krug said.
However, for children below the age of three “there is absolutely no research that shows that there is a benefit in terms of learning with language,” he added.
A final bit of reading in this toddlers and Casa kids section is “The Touch-Screen Generation” by Hanna Rosin. We offered this up on our Facebook page a while ago as a more balanced perspective than the kids-addicted-and-need-therapy article.
Rosin’s article caught my attention because it asks “What, really, would Maria Montessori have made of this scene?” The scene in question is an apps for toddlers developer conference. Rosin attended the conference hoping developers “would be able to articulate some benefits of the new technology that the more cautious pediatricians weren’t ready to address.” Most illuminating is Rosin’s surprise at the developers’ approaches with their own kids to limit screen time (“It can be too addictive, too stimulating for the brain,” one of them is quoted as saying).
Rosin doesn’t return to Montessori (don’t worry, others do in the next section), but she does identify “the neurosis of our age: as technology becomes ubiquitous in our lives, American parents are becoming more, not less, wary of what it might be doing to their children,” and she makes the important point that “To date, no body of research has definitively proved that the iPad will make your preschooler smarter or teach her to speak Chinese, or alternatively that it will rust her neural circuitry.”
Rosin’s article is on the long-ish side (like this one, but it’s summer, so, errm…bring your iPad or laptop or whatever outside and enjoy some reading time) but it touches on a number of important points: the need for toddlers to engage in reciprocal communication (“I do something, you respond”) about the real world, and the success of historical toys that “were designed more for family fun. Also, they were not really meant to teach you something specific — they existed mostly in the service of having fun.”
She also offers an important historical perspective on shiny new things:
Every new medium has, within a short time of its introduction, been condemned as a threat to young people. Pulp novels would destroy their morals, TV would wreck their eyesight, video games would make them violent. Each one has been accused of seducing kids into wasting time that would otherwise be spent learning about the presidents, playing with friends, or digging their toes into the sand. In our generation, the worries focus on kids’ brainpower, about unused synapses withering as children stare at the screen. People fret about television and ADHD, although that concern is largely based on a single study that has been roundly criticized and doesn’t jibe with anything we know about the disorder.
She gets a little bit Montessori again when outlining an approach to “media consumption” by kids, recommending a “child by child” perspective — always good advice. Perhaps my favourite part of the article is when she concludes with a story about following “the Prensky rules”:
Marc Prensky, the education and technology writer, who has the most extreme parenting philosophy of anyone I encountered in my reporting. Prensky’s 7-year-old son has access to books, TV, Legos, Wii — and Prensky treats them all the same. He does not limit access to any of them.
For six months, I would let my toddler live by the Prensky rules. I would put the iPad in the toy basket, along with the remote-control car and the Legos. Whenever he wanted to play with it, I would let him.
Gideon tested me the very first day. He saw the iPad in his space and asked if he could play. It was 8 a.m. and we had to get ready for school. I said yes. For 45 minutes he sat on a chair and played as I got him dressed, got his backpack ready, and failed to feed him breakfast. This was extremely annoying and obviously untenable. The week went on like this — Gideon grabbing the iPad for two-hour stretches, in the morning, after school, at bedtime. Then, after about 10 days, the iPad fell out of his rotation, just like every other toy does. He dropped it under the bed and never looked for it. It was completely forgotten for about six weeks.
Now he picks it up every once in a while, but not all that often.
The Elementary Years
At Dundas Valley Montessori School, education and technology don’t meet until the elementary years. In the lower elementary classrooms (ages 6-9, grades 1-3 equivalent), there is a computer the kids can use, but it is on a shelf just like the other materials, and the teachers use it mostly for tracking and responding to parent emails. Kids can ask to use it to type up projects or to look something up on the internet they haven’t been able to find any or enough information about using the school and public libraries, classroom materials, or human resources. In this way, the kids receive an introduction to basic digital literacy skills. Notably, we are seeing more and more kids bring more advanced computer skills with them from home.
At the upper elementary level (ages 9-12, grades 4-6 equivalent), computers become more commonly used. We have a couple of desktops — a PC and a Mac — and a number of laptops. Digital literacy skills are improved and developed. Kids use the computers for internet research and writing, but also for creating presentations via presentation software, websites, videos, or blogs.
The topic of incorporating technology into Montessori remains open, but there have been a few attempts to tackle the issue.
In “5 Characteristics Connecting Montessori Ed & the Digital Learning Movement,” Carri Schneider explores some similarities between the potentially contradictory learning models/styles: “At first glance, the intersections between Montessori education and high-quality digital learning are not immediately apparent,” says Schneider. Montessori, with “its natural materials and deep traditions seem[s] to stand in opposition to the vision of a futuristic, technology-rich digital or blended learning environment.”
Her five points of connection between Montessori and Digital Learning are:
- Individual Learning Progressions & Competency-Based Learning;
- Elimination of Age and Grade Restrictions;
- Formative Assessments & Short Feedback Loops;
- Non-traditional Teacher Roles; and
- A Global Citizen Perspective.
Click the link and read the article for more details about each. I particularly respected her final point of relation between Montessori and Digital Learning, where she advocates for the legitimacy of alternative models: “Montessori education, with its deep traditions of child-centered learning and long histories of honoring the unique needs of students, can speak to calls for ‘proof’ that alternatives to traditional K-12 schooling have merit.”
Schneider isn’t the only one looking for connections between Montessori and technology. Jack West had an article entitled “What Would Maria Montessori Say About EdTech?” published on the New Media Consortium website.
West offers a good summation of the EdTech dilemma:
With thousands of new educational technology applications appearing every year, it is an exciting time to be an educator. There is an inner voice, however, that rumbles within every teacher as they consider introducing a new technology to their students. The voice asks “What is the educational value of this technology?”
West tells us he suspects that Maria Montessori’s response to EdTech “would be a warm one, though not entirely sanguine,” and he emphasizes that during the Casa years the focus should remain on the concrete, material world: “I am going to put myself out on a limb and suggest that Montessori would not buy iPad apps for her children before [age 6, or] the loss of the first tooth.”
West states that he does not feel qualified to discuss the elementary years, but he does believe technology can play an important role during the transition to, and throughout, adolescence:
The early adolescent will still need a rite of passage to complete his or her task of distinguishing a unique identity. The later adolescent will still need significant role models and the opportunity to explore their vocations of interest. Where technology can aid the developing human to accomplish these psychosocial tasks gracefully, it should be welcomed, and when it is a distraction, it should be limited. In my humble estimation, Maria Montessori would agree.
Perhaps the closest thing to any sort of an authoritative word on Montessori and technology comes from the Association Montessori International USA (AMIUSA) through their publication “The Technology Screen: A Compilation by Three Authors.” The document is made up of three essays by three different authors, and two of them speak directly to technology and education.
The first, “Jumpstart Baby,” by John Long, Head of School at Post Oak School in Houston, Texas, also discusses the “lucrative business” of toddler tech, and reinforces the importance of avoiding technology in education during the early years: “Montessori aimed to put the child in contact with the real world, whereas computer experience disassociates the young child from the real world…Children who learn through computers are imprisoned by that experience because it does not generalize to the concrete media of the real world.”
However, Long points out that this does not mean Montessori should (or would) reject EdTech outright, and he supports the position that elementary is the time to introduce technology: “Was Montessori a technophobe? Certainly not. She said that young people must learn the most current technology of their age as a part of their education. Where is the place for computers in the life of a child? Begin during the elementary years. That is certainly early enough and corresponds more to the developmental characteristics of the child.”
The other relevant piece in the AMIUSA document is “The Growing Brain in a Changing World,” by Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., “a teacher, educational psychologist, and author of several award-winning books.” Healy lays out a provocative thesis: “my thesis is very simple, and yet all-too-complex: If we allow our children to be raised and educated by machines, we should not be surprised if they grow up without humanity.”
Healy frames her thesis in the context of critical/sensitive developmental periods, referencing the elasticity of the brain during development, and puts forth her own speculation on how Maria Montessori would react to todays technology-rich culture:
For the prefrontal cortex, it seems that many types of input and experience are important, with the most important being the emotional and cognitive scaffolding—or lack of it—provided by other human beings during the process of development. Clearly, Maria Montessori knew this. I believe she termed such scaffolding the “prepared environment.” Surely she would be horrified at the environments which assault the minds and spirits of today’s children.
She provides a bullit-list summation of the assaulting environments, and she concludes with a call for the development of critical thinking, creativity, and emotion:
Machines and technologies will not prepare young people for the future. Electronic technologies, in fact, mitigate against the neurological development needed to live one’s life peacefully, either internally or externally. Our greatest hope for our students does not lie in “standards,” in mechanistic learning models, or in digital one-up-manship. Rather it lies in our eminently human task: Helping them learn to think critically, create intelligently, and feel deeply.
Taking the critique of traditional approaches to education even further, and making a strong argument in favour technology as a beneficial education tool, is “What if students learn faster without teachers?” which looks Sugata Mitra’s experiments installing computers with internet access in a New Dehli slum and being amazed as kids, who could not speak English, learned how to use the computer, surf the web, and learn with no adult instruction.
Mitra calls this model “self-organized” learning, and it is remarkably similar to the Montessori method. Mitra has become a bit of a star in education circles; he won a $1 million prize from TED this year.
Despite the attention-grabbing headline, Mitra doesn’t actually think we need to do away with teachers: “Mitra said he doesn’t think teachers are obsolete but suggests their roles may be changing as students increasingly have access to self-learning through computers.” He envisions them as more or less Montessori guides — providing support and guidance to students’ own learning initiatives.
Check out Mitra on TED here: http://www.ted.com/speakers/sugata_mitra.html
A similar approach to that Mitra promotes is called Connected Learning, and a comprehensive document called “Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design” was published by the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub this past January.
“Connected learning is realized when a young person pursues a personal interest or passion with the support of friends and caring adults, and is in
turn able to link this learning and interest to academic achievement, career
possibilities, or civic engagement,” write the reports authors. “Digital and networked media offer new ways of expanding the reach and accessibility of connected learning so it is not just privileged youth who have these opportunities… Despite its power to advance learning, many parents, educators, and policymakers perceive new media as a distraction from academic learning, civic engagement, and future opportunity.”
The report calls for “a proactive educational reform agenda that begins with questions of equity, leverages both in-school and out-of-school learning, and embraces the opportunities new media offer for learning,” discusses some challenges and risks (mostly focused on U.S. economic and ethnic disparities and tensions), reports a variety of familiar statistics describing the growth of the media landscape and children’s increasing engagement with it, and offers a good summary of the EdTech debate, with references, making it a valuable work for those who wish to pursue the topic in more depth:
We see growing debate that centers on the more active roles young people are taking in shaping media content and their own media environment. Many have raised concerns about the decline in social norms and standards exemplified by young people’s social media use. For example, Sherry Turkle (2011) has argued that teens are turning away from meaningful and embodied social communication with their over-reliance on texting and social media. Other scholars suggest that digital media engagement is tied to declining literacy and reduced capacity for sustained and reflective thought (Baron, 2010; Bauerlein, 2008, Carr, 2010, Greenfield, 2009). Multitasking and distractibility with the advent of new media raise a related set of concerns, and some point to greater stress and loss of focus (Pea et al., 2012). These issues are the subject of much debate. In contrast to these negative views of young people’s digital media use, proponents of “digital natives” (Prensky [remember him], 2010) and the “digital generation” (Tapscott, 2008) have argued for the highly activated, engaged, and resourceful kinds of learning and literacy young people are gaining with games and online activity.
While the report functions to provide considerable support for the advancement of EdTech, the authors do recognize some of the limitations in the discussion:
The dominant focus in educational technology is lowering the costs of content delivery, improving instruction, and optimizing assessment for existing metrics, standards, and accountabilities. These are laudable and important goals that we believe need to be accompanied by approaches that expand and diversify the targets and pathways of education. We recognize the importance of foundational skills and knowledge, but we also see the challenges of education as broader than meeting uniform content standards.
A primary focus of the work is to describe Connected Learning, and to lay out some “Guiding Design Principles for Connected Learning.” The authors state that “Connected Learning knits together three crucial contexts for learning: Peer-supported, Interest-powered, Academically oriented,” and provide a Venn diagram illustrating how Connected Learning takes place at the intersection of these three spheres.
They offer four guiding design principles:
- Everyone can participate
- Learning happens by doing
- Challenge is constant
- Everything is interconnected
Overall, Mitra and the Connected Learning model provide a positive side to the EdTech/kids and tech issue. (See, I told you it would get better).
Technology gets blamed for a lot of problems these days; it’s a historical consistency (remember the historical review of the evils of emerging technologies in Hanna Rosin’s “The Touch-Screen Generation”).
In “Can the Digital Generation Do Anything Right?” Jason Tomassini looks at the translation of digital skill sets to workplace environments and some of the related, emerging problems: “young people are often hired for online dexterity but, employers say, don’t know how to go beyond Google.”
He references a Project Information Literacy report, “How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace,” which identifies some of the problems employers are finding with younger, tech-experienced employees: “‘They expect information to be so easy to get, that when it’s not, it’s frustrating to them. They’ve lived in a world where it’s always been there.’ Other respondents bemoaned new hires’ tendency to follow procedures and finish tasks quickly in favor of doing them well.”
However, Tomassini points out that these tensions are not just a problem with younger generations:
The PIL study suggests many of the problems start right there, with hiring. Employers admitted to not doing enough due diligence during the interview process. They hire candidates’ based on impressive digital skills and expect social and analytical skills to follow. In these cases, it’s often the employers lack of digital literacy that leads to the misunderstandings, said Alison Head, the executive director of PIL and the author of the report.
“Employers are mistakenly thinking research competencies are the same as digital competencies,” Head, who is also a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, said in a phone interview. “One is a set of skills and the other is a way of thinking and strategizing. There’s a real cultural divide.”
As with most issues, there are always aspects to consider beyond that which is initially visible and easy to blame. A considered, balanced approach is always the best way to go.
So, if the goal of incorporating technology into education is to ask “What is the educational value of this technology?” what value does it have for the elementary-aged student. Well, certainly the progressive development of digital literacy skills is valuable (see our earlier technology issue of The PATH for more on digital literacy), but what implications does technology have for traditional literacy, and what other considerations should educators tackle as students begin to increasingly develop online personas and presences?
“The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens” asks: “How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read?” Author Ferris Jabr reports that as familiarity grows with e-readers and other screen-based means of text presentation, and as the technology itself improves, there is a shift appearing in findings towards a lessening gap of significant difference between reading speed and comprehension in comparisons of paper versus screen reading.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though:
Even so, evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way. In turn, such navigational difficulties may subtly inhibit reading comprehension. Compared with paper, screens may also drain more of our mental resources while we are reading and make it a little harder to remember what we read when we are done. A parallel line of research focuses on people’s attitudes toward different kinds of media. Whether they realize it or not, many people approach computers and tablets with a state of mind less conducive to learning than the one they bring to paper.
The landscape of paper texts offers benefits for comprehension and learning. Things like remembering where in a text information was read based on the frame provided by the pages, and being able to see and feel how much has been read and how much is left concurrent to reading the immediate page, is advantageous for overall comprehension.
An important distinction between “remembering” and “knowing” is made: “students who read on paper learned the study material more thoroughly more quickly; they did not have to spend a lot of time searching their minds for information from the text, trying to trigger the right memory — they often just knew the answers.”
“When reading on screens,” Jabr writes, in explaining that people tend to approach screen reading with less intention of exerting mental effort, “people seem less inclined to engage in what psychologists call metacognitive learning regulation — strategies such as setting specific goals, rereading difficult sections and checking how much one has understood along the way.”
But again, there’s always another side to the argument to balance things out. The article concludes by extolling some the advantages screen text has over paper text, namely the interactivity and multi-media advantage of e-text: “embedded interactive graphics, maps, timelines, animations and sound tracks,” that a paper text could never provide.
During the adolescent years, both the early middle-school period and the later high school period, engagement with technology becomes considerably more ubiquitous and expands into social media, bringing a whole other set of issues to consider.
After reading through a majority of articles with a U.S. focus, you’ll be pleased to know that some local educators are engaged and working in this area. Hamilton resident/Brantford teacher Andrew Campbell posted an article on his blog at the end of last year entitled “Digital Citizenship, Free Speech and ‘The Brampton 9’,” in response to the suspension of 9 students in Brampton over comments they had posted on Twitter.
As Campbell says in his opening, “Ontario education was dragged in the shifting debate over students, privacy, free speech and the internet.” His post raises important questions schools and educators need to consider in light of the expanding social media landscape and student engagement with it. Terms like “Digital Citizenship” and “Digital Footprint” may be unfamiliar terms to some, but this is the language being associated with informed, responsible, safe use of social media, and the internet in general, by adolescents.
Aaron Puley is a K-12 educator and Parent / Student Engagement Consultant with a 21st Century Fluencies Lens for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB), a Secondary (9-12) Teacher, and a writer at Bloggucation. Aaron’s workshop “Raising Responsible Digital Citizens” is a great resource for parents and adolescents. In Aaron’s words: “In today’s complex physical and virtual world it is becoming increasingly necessary that children and adults alike understand their digital identity so as to ensure that it is a true representation of the real-life physical self. This workshop is designed to provide tips, tricks, and strategies for ensuring a basic understanding of the digital world and strategies for working with your tweens and teens at home.”
Parents may be reluctant to talk to or work with their kids when it comes to social media. After all, it is the domain of the young, right? What do parents know that kids aren’t already light years ahead of? Well, Rebecca Levey has a response in her article “Why Being Young Doesn’t Make You a Social Media Expert.” Levey provides the illuminating confession that:
It never occurred to me that my daughters would have no idea what they were doing when they entered the social media space. After all, for me it’s just an extension of my “real” life. But I quickly came to realize that of course is the crux of the issue when it comes to tweens and teens online: they are just starting to figure out what it means to be social in their real world. Adding in social media amplifies and intensifies all of the bumbling mistakes, mean girl tendencies and just out right naivitee.
She discusses “email protocol and etiquette” and the rise in popularity among adolescents of apps like Instagram and chat apps. She introduces her family’s social media rules with the statement, “my girls have a supercomputer connected to the world in the palm of their hand every day, and no instruction manual. That had to change. This isn’t about care and responsibility for the device, it’s about having a social media playbook so they can understand the rules of the game and be as safe and smart as possible.”
If you are a parent who is hesitant to discuss social media and safe internet practices with your kids because you feel like you don’t know what’s going on, the PEW Internet and American Life Project is a great resource. (Again, it is U.S.-focused, but the interwebs are apparently a bit of global thing, so the kids say.) They recently published a report called “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy” that provides a fairly comprehensive picture of what adolescents are engaged with and doing on social media.
I found PEW through another great resource, Danah Boyd. Danah is “a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law School, a Fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales…an academic and a scholar…[whose] research examines social media, youth practices, tensions between public and private, social network sites, and other intersections between technology and society.” She writes and publishes prolifically, and her work always manages to cut through the sensationalism and panic that often accompanies discussions of teens and the web.
Phew! That’s a lot. If you made it this far, congratulations and thank you. Now turn off the damn computer and go play outside!