Given that I have a small version of myself running around my house, I think about how she’ll use the Internet when she gets older. Just the other day she, “Asked Google something” which made me realize that, although she’s just barely literate, my kid is going to “be online” for the rest of her life. Although I’m not really sure what “be online” will mean for her over the years. So without putting too many more “things in quotes” I wanted to share a few resources I’ve found helpful in framing how I think about my child’s future online.
First is an interview with danah boyd on Triangulation (she prefers lowercase. I presume it’s an artistic thing and just go with it). danah’s book It’s Complicated: The Social Life of Networked Teens dives into research around how teens use the internet and what the real risks are online. Despite the title, my big take away was that it’s not all that complicated. Teens want to do, basically, the same things. Without providing any spoilers, some of what danah discusses reminds me of this:
Then today I stumbled on an article over at Boing Boing titled “Everything You Know About the Teenage Brain is Bullshit” and the article is worth reading. The tl;dr is “There’s no real evidence that online use is eating teens brains.”
Will I monitor how my child interacts with the connected digital world? Of course. I will also watch how she behaves at school and at the playground and talk about those things with her. Will I encourage her to put down the iPad and go fishing with me on a sunny Saturday? You betcha. But it’s not because the Internet is eating her brain… It’s because I want her to learn to have balanced interests.
Of course I’ll likely freak out at some point and lose perspective. Because, you know, parenting.
As a great historical analog, according to this article, in 1859, Scientific American had the following to say about… chess:
Those who are engaged in mental pursuits should avoid a chess-board as they would an adder’s nest, because chess misdirects and exhausts their intellectual energies. Rather let them dance, sing, play ball, perform gymnastics, roam in the woods or by the seashore, than play chess. It is a game which no man who depends on his trade, business or profession can afford to waste time in practicing; it is an amusement — and a very unprofitable one — which the independently wealthy alone can afford time to lose in its pursuit.
We really do need to be careful what activities we let our children waste their youth on.