The year was 2000. The web was akin to the Wild West. It was exciting and unbridled. There were no rules. There were no sheriffs. In some ways, the internet is still in its adolescent period. We’ve just added everyone and his grandmother to the show. It’s hard to think about what’s acceptable and to be pro-active about teaching it, when the changes come so fast now.
The year was 2000. Two of my friends and I took our radio broadcasting and web design talents to the digital frontier. We staked our claim by setting up an on-demand music site that included streaming webcasts produced in our living rooms and multimedia features of artists that we curated for our audience.
Fourteen years later we have a term for what we had been creating. Podcasting. At the time, there was no such word. We weren’t the first to do it, but we were among the few. The web was akin to the Wild West. It was exciting and unbridled. There were no rules. There were no sheriffs. There was only possibility (if you had a 56k Modem).
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Yesterday I was running errands with my mother, who reads aloud to me on our hour-long drive to a city with chain stores to buy things we can’t get in our small town. Every once in awhile, she interjected commentary into the 28-page introduction to “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” by Danah Boyd. My mom wants us to teach kids how to behave safely and kindly online. I counter her desire with a question about whose responsibility it is.
A passionate dialogue ensued.
“Parents should be teaching their children. We don’t hand over keys to a car without lessons, practice and guidance.”
“You’re assuming that two parents are at home.”
“I know that’s not always the case, but someone put the device in the kid’s hand. Maybe we need to educate parents, too.”
“Not everyone can be like Rosie.” My mother was referring to Rosie O’Donnell on The View, who has strict family guidelines about device use. Rosie reported on October 8, 2014 that she “uses an app called Teen Safe, so she can check every site her teens have visited. And her kids know she is watching.” O’Donnell has also mentioned on the show that there is a cutoff time at night at which all devices are turned off.
“I know they can’t all be like Rosie, or Jennifer Garner’s character in that new movie, but it shouldn’t just be taught in school.”
In some ways, the internet is still in its adolescent period. We’ve just added everyone and his grandmother to the show. We’re redefining social norms as they arise. It’s hard to think about what is acceptable and to be pro-active about teaching it, when the changes come so fast now.
When is it appropriate to put down your phone during a conversation in a restaurant? Will hands-free technology in cars help or do more harm? Will walking and texting ever be less dangerous?
Why do some people still insist on using ALL CAPS when netiquette tells us that they are SHOUTING? Has that rule changed? How can social “rules” be enforced in an online environment, especially if they are fluid? Aren’t we just making it up as we go along, waiting for a critical mass to tell us what behavior will be celebrated or crucified?
I have to wonder what it was like during Westward Expansion? Surely, the adults didn’t let kids go into saloons. Some found a way in anyway, I’m sure. Just the kids who find a proxy around a firewall.
While social media and other networks may sometimes feel lawless, there are means of keeping each other in check. We are now members of communities and subcommunities with varying mores.
We have a responsibility to protect each other because, unlike ghost towns, our digital pasts could come back to haunt our future selves.
The list of Parent Concerns at Common Sense Media can be overwhelming. How do you incorporate the topics into an already curriculum-packed day? How young is too early to start? How have you addressed privacy, internet safety, copyright and source citation, social network norms, cybershaming, or other interconnected issues that are arising on a daily basis? Have you partnered with parents on any of these matters?
Inception…in the Wild West: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by PeterThoeny: http://flickr.com/photos/peterthoeny/9943464566
Yarnell Saloon: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Dennis Larson: http://flickr.com/photos/dennis_larson/6036935491