The Scary Internet is Eating Our Children!!!

While working with kids, I often hear complaints from other educators or adults on the dangers of media or how much time these kids are spending on their phones, computers, ipods, and any other portable device. I’ve recently been a part of some very meaningful discussions in how raising kids is like a war between good and evil, only the good side is vastly overwhelmed by all the powers of the bad. It makes me shudder to think about bringing a life into this ever-changing world of evil and danger.

We really do have the odds stacked against us. According to studies by the Kaiser Foundation in 2009, kids between 8 and 18 are averaging 7.5 hours of media consumption per day. Yes, even school days, and much of the time they are multitasking between two or more media devices. So what are they doing during all this time? In my observations, I have seen that most of the media consumption is social. Kids are juggling between facebook and texting and are holding fifteen different conversations with fifteen different people simultaneously. They will reply to a status merely seconds after it was posted. Students at are our school are connected even when the Internet’s out, the electricity is off, and they are room-bound for disciplinary reasons. The guys have already figured out how to reach around the Internet filters with the same method as citizens of China, to access Youtube and Facebook. I see Internet bullying and gossip happening on a daily basis. Kids will write hurtful words on someone’s wall that they would never say to their face. Others stay up until the wee hours of the morning playing video games or texting and barely make it to class the next day.

So the discussions I am hearing by staff around me, the administration, the parents, and teachers are mostly, what do we do now? How do we set up a system that regulates what our kids are watching, consuming, viewing to protect them from all the awful stuff that’s out there? Do we make our Internet filtering system stricter, take away cell phones, march to take down Facebook? Or are we asking ourselves all the wrong questions?

Maybe we should be asking ourselves, how can we instill standards in these students that they will be able to take from here and teach boundaries for a world that is ever changing? What many of us don’t understand is that our way is not real life; theirs’ is. These kids and every generation from here on out will not have lived a day without the Internet or cell phones. Like it or not, mass media and its consumption is here to stay. Yes, in the great battle, the odds are against parents, educators, mentors, and leaders. However, KIDS ARE NOT DUMB! Kids can tell the difference between someone who genuinely takes an interest in them and someone who just wants to enforce a bunch of rules and regulations. I bet you money that if you offer to take a kid to Taco Bell, they would much rather spend time with you than a bunch of fake cyber facebook friends. This year, I’ve discovered that all of these devices are not the enemy. They can be used for good.

As long as adults distance themselves from kids and what they’re into, it will be more and more difficult for them to get a glance into these kids’ lives. Good news, everyone! Kids still have active imaginations! They still get excited about noble causes and are moved to action by youtube documentaries and stories! They are creative and find joy in making projects with their friends. And…kids like you, and want to know you and want to learn from all of those embarrassing stories and mistakes that you made when you were their age. Because when all is said and done, you weren’t so different from them, were you?

So instead of cowering in fear at the Twitter, why not join? Subscribe to these kids’ blogs, comment on them, encourage good writing, or comment on their photos. Let them teach you how it’s done, and then they’ll be willing to take values and lessons from you. I do believe in regulation and giving kids boundaries in their consumption, but this cannot come before a relationship. Rules and regulation must be founded in something deeper. Just ask the creator of those ten commandments.


Tiffany said...

Great post with valid points all around. Thank you for bringing out the fact that, yes, it is here to stay, and yes, there are ways we can get involved and make a difference through these new communication forms -- and that anybody would take one-on-one time over cyber time. So true!

kessia reyne said...

YES, Rika. I agree.

And I'd like to add that we should be careful not to poison our intentional efforts by modeling bad device behavior with and around the young people we influence. Are we on our Blackberrys every time there's a quiet moment? Are we pulling out our iPhones and checking Facebook during chapel? The scary internet is eating us too!

Heather said...

You are wise.

Rika said...

Oh man Kessia, you're so right! I need to be to be aware-i'm sure i've already been consumed by my constant connection to my iphone, checking messages and always staying "in touch".

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