A study was released by the MacArthur Foundation which reports what most young people already know: Digital media are good for you. Some of the major findings include the assertion that youth use online media and networks to extend friendships and interests, and that youth engage in self-directed, peer-based learning online. The report also calls for educational institutions to modernize their systems, and that adults have a responsibility to facilitate the relationship their youth have with new media.
Bingo! This is what we here at the LAMP have said many times before in our workshops and materials: Media needs to be a family affair. It’s not enough to set up filters; you have to actually talk to your kids about it and learn how to use it yourself. Too often, I run into adults who look down on new technology as trivial or beyond their ability to understand, and the simple response is that it is not. I think that we will look back on ourselves years from now, and wonder why we didn’t act sooner. Schools also have to take the step towards utilizing new media in their lessons, and in tandem with this, administrators and federal funders need to make this possible by allocating money. Stringent rules (like blocking YouTube from all NYC public school computers) are not the answer–an attempt to standardize something so complex as the Internet does not benefit anyone.
In my view, much of the antagonism adults feel towards new media has been created by sectors of the media itself. It’s true that online predators exist, and that hateful and inappropriate material floats around in cyberspace. What’s also true is that these stories are generally reported with more frequency than the positive things that happen with the Internet. Unfortunately, however, fear of the unknown has prevailed, enabling big media to own the way we view things and turn our heads. My hope is that the MacArthur report will reach educators and adults who are are paralyzed and overwhelmed by new media, and help them wake up to change and new responsibility. If you have children, you’re already at an advantage to learn–have them teach you. You might be surprised.