Point and click...
Chat, search engine, e-mail...
This is all vocabulary that NONE of us possessed 20 years ago. I sometimes marvel at how quickly the internet has become such a big part of our lives, and especially our children's lives. They do not remember a time when this vocabulary wasn't a staple in their daily conversations. We are raising an entire generation of children who will never know the joys of looking up a book in the card catalog using the Dewey Decimal system. When they need a book at the library, they type it into the search box and a list of matching books and where they are located pops up on the screen. Voila! Instant gratification.
If you can remember sifting through the cards at the library, and you now have a child between the ages of 2 and 21 who knows as much, if not more, than you about computers and the world wide web (and has never even heard of this Dewey Decimal dude), then you are a proud parent of Generation MySpace.
I happen to be one of those parents. I have an 8-year-old who can sit at the computer, turn it on, log in and do things ranging from playing games on CD to surfing the internet. He began going on the computer when he was 2-years old, and he has never looked back. Now, at this point in time, we have parental blocks on the computer, and he never strays away from CartooonNetwork.com or ToonTown, but there will come a day when he is lured into the appealing and popular world of social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, and a litany of others.
Last night, as my husband and I were surfing the channels for something to watch, we came across a Frontline report called Growing Up Online. The whole program was devoted to this sub-culture of teenagers that are completely addicted and wholly consumed with online interaction with their friends and/or strangers. It probed the actions of teenagers online on sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
Now, I will admit that I myself have a MySpace account and have been thinking about getting one on Facebook, but my reasons for having these are dramatically different from those of teenagers today. Instead of just wanting to connect with friends and having a place to keep in touch, teenagers are in essence "living their lives online" on these sites.
I am not naive, I knew the rising reliance of teenagers on the internet, but I admit that I was shocked at some of the comments I heard from the teenagers on this program. Not only are they chatting with their friends and sending photos, they are connecting with perfect strangers (including sending nude or half nude photos -- my stomach is lurching) and being recommended pornographic or completely inappropriate sites to "check out." Don't even get me started about the YouTube craze of recording disturbing scenes on their cell phones and posting them online, as in the case of a fight that broke out in a high school that got caught on tape.
Does this not strike anyone else as detrimental to the development of our children? Sure, I did my share of looking at things I wasn't supposed to look at and doing things I wasn't supposed to do during my teenage years, but this technological age has brought the capability of teenagers to do this to a whole new level.