Check out Frontline’s Growing Up Online, which aired on KQED Channel 9 Tuesday night and repeats several times this week (TV listings). Although the program slipped into the clichéd dangers of the internet at times, it had some interesting nuggets on how this generation is different.
After Frontline made the point early in the hour-long program that 90% of teens are online – a number that’s still growing – several experts talked about how ubiquitous the internet is for young people. “This is a generation that sees online not as a separate place you go, but as sort of a continuation of their existence,” said Danah Boyd, fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
They spend family vacations texting. They try out new identities on the web. Instead of reading books, they study online synopses of the classics.
“I’ve actually never read Romeo and Juliet. So, I read it yesterday in five minutes,” said Greg Bukata. “I feel like I’ve kind of cheated it. I feel like I owe it to myself to read some of these books, but I know I just don’t have time. If there were 27 hours in a day, I’d read Hamlet, but there are only 24.”
One parent, Evan Skinner of Chatham, N.J., took an aggressive approach to try to corral her teens’ use of the internet. She put the one family computer in the kitchen, limiting her kids’ privacy. And she made a request: Give me your Facebook password in a sealed envelope and I’ll only open it in an emergency, such as an abduction. Their reaction: Thanks, mom, but no thanks. She would try to open the envelope because she feels so strongly, her son Cam said.
When a teen outing to a Madison Square Garden concert yielded a bunch of YouTube videos of rampant drinking on subway trains, Skinner, then the PTO president, sent out a “look what your kids are doing” email blast. Her son was chagrined and his relationship with his mom became strained, ironic considering she only was alerting the other parents what already was accessible to the world.
My suggestion: Watch the program with your kid. I didn’t but will try to when it airs again. It can be seen online if you can’t catch it on the tube.