Play time at Aaron Yacks’s house goes something like this… The kids from around the neighborhood come over. A few crowd around computer #1 and the others crowd around computer #2. They invite each other into virtual rooms and the games begin. Shouting can be heard through out the halls of the house as they yell to each other, “I’m going to go on the next quest, are you coming?”
They are doing what all kids do.
They are exploring together… only virtually.
It’s much different than the times of playing blocks on the floor or playing tag in the neighbor’s yard. And it’s quick to judge experiences that were different than the ones we had. But with new experiences come new opportunities.
There is something to this new play time. The New York Times described it best as co-presence. Both teams are playing their own game, but they are also “talking” back and forth, as if they were in the same room, on the same computer. And because of that, they don’t even have to be. They could be across the street from each other. They could be across the world from each other.
The new play time is killing the locationality of friendships.
I would have given anything to have that sort of play time. My nearest cousins were 11 hours away!!
But you open up the doors to far away cousins, then you are leaving it open for far away strangers. I don’t believe the real concern is what To Catch a Predator would make you believe. Children are being taught internet safety in classrooms and in programs like Boy Scouts. Studies have shown that the vast majority of teenagers know how to appropriately deal with online sexual predators. The concerns for me were best detailed in the Frontline series, Growing Up Online:
“The real concern is the trouble that kids might get into on their own. Through social networking and other Web sites, kids with eating disorders share tips about staying thin, and depressed kids can share information about the best ways to commit suicide. Another threat is ‘cyberbullying,’ as schoolyard taunts, insults and rumors find their way online.”
A highly interconnected world brings out support for the bad, as well as the good. The vast amount of information allows kids to find what they want to find on their own, rather than talking with a parent. And the anonymity gives kids a shield to be more cruel than they could face-to-face. But every statement above is a glass half-full, glass half-empty scenario. Is the problem really connectivity, information, and anonymity? Or is what kids do with it that matters?
Growing Up Online called it the “biggest generation gap since rock ‘n’ roll”. But that is only because the parents in the series weren’t also embracing the technology. With children and parents on the same level, they can explore together, lessons can be taught, and good internet behavior can be learned from the start, from the home.
So with every horror story that we read online or see on the news, it is very important to remember that technology has its positive side too. For one, it brings people together…
“My boys have different ideas of fun. One is a computer junkie, another isn’t, but is into trading cards. Recently they found the online game 39Clues. And it’s something they can all get into, there is a little something in it for each one. And now they are playing together again.”
It’s also changing the very fabric of education. But more on that tomorrow, as we continue with our series:
1. The Definition, what makes a “digital native” different
2. Play Time, technology is changing relationships
3. Work Time, technology is changing learning
4. The Trade-Off, technology is changing human beings