Living within a more public context and operating in a “full-time intimate [online] community” (15) also creates a sense that there is a lack of privacy. I am of the age whereby we were warned of the Internet, told to protect ourselves and be careful of what we post and how we present ourselves. However, as social media becomes more pervasive, and people become more involved, more and more is revealed. There is now a digital record of everything. With regards to youth, how does this affect them as they experiment with growing up in an online environment? With regards to myself, I will say, I am still slightly intimidated. What if the tone doesn’t translate? What if words are misconstrued? I have to say, I have, of late, taken to answering many e-mails in person, as a quick interaction face-to-face can often clarify what might take many e-mails.
On the other hand, the idea of “hanging out” online is fascinating. I agree that we certainly do not support students’ digital lives. A simple “no cell phone rule” at school basically extinguishes their social life as they cannot connect with BBM, Facebook, Twitter, etc. during the school day. In a sense, with such rules, we are making them go underground, and yet, one could pose the question, is it so bad to hang out and interact face to face?
This debate rages and I think this certainly reveals the generation gap. People of my generation lament the fact that students live in this constantly connected world at the expense of developing person-to-person social skills. However, in my own life, I am starting to see more and more value in this digital world, which in turn makes me understand how necessary it is for young people.
A simple example that highlights this is my recent discovery of Words with Friends. Prior to having children, my husband and I loved playing Scrabble together. Now, we are lucky to get the scrabble board out a handful of times each year. If we tried to play while the children were awake, we’d likely lose half of our letters. By the time they are in bed, we are simply too tired. Yet, we have revived our Scrabble competition online, and we are having a great time and connecting again through this game, albeit digitally. Some say they think it sad that two people sitting in the same room are engaged in their media devices instead of talking, and yet, how much talking really occurs across a real Scrabble board? It’s a pretty quiet game. So now, we have a constant game going, and we can play while doing all those real world things we have to as adults. And we maintain a verbal dialogue about it, much the same as youth must as they connect in their online worlds.
As I said, it’s a pretty simple example, but if I can discover quality relationships online that enhance my real relationships and keep me connected to people more constantly, then this must also be what this report is addressing with regards to youth interaction. The idea of “hanging out” online is not so different from when I was a teen and we “hung out” on the phone, especially once three-way calling came into being and there would be 6-7 of us on the line at once (my how far we’ve come).
The report concludes that adults see “these new practices as mystifying and, at times threatening to existing social norms and educational standards” (35), yet, are we not constantly evolving and changing. Social norms twenty years ago were far different than fifty years ago. We are in constant evolution, so we may as well embrace it. And if schools become more similar to how youth operate, perhaps they will no longer need to live dual lives…perhaps, they will become more engaged with school again.