Growing up digitally.

I find that every week I am enjoying the assigned readings more and more. The problem with enjoying them more and more is that I have a lot more to say about all of them but I have a hard time gathering and organizing all my thoughts into a logical post. This week there were a few readings that really grabbed my attention. This post focuses on only one of the readings.

One of the first readings I want to comment on is the survey that was done by Media Smarts. The classroom-based survey was completed in 2013 by 5,436 students in grade 4-11 across Canada. It focuses on the role of networked technology in students lives. After reading through the executive summary there were a few pieces of data that I found to be very interesting.

“First and foremost, these are highly connected children and teens, most of who are accustomed to online access through devices that are portable and personal. This is a big shift from 2005, where the majority of students accessed the Internet through desktop computers at home. Today’s youth have multiple platforms to choose from to go online.”

This is a very important piece of information that we need to keep in mind when we consider digital citizenship and digital literacy. Students are connected now more than ever before. With the majority of students having access to portable devices it makes everything available in an instant. Students are able to share updates, photos, videos at the touch of a button. The ability to do an online search for information is at their finger tips at almost any minute. We need to understand how this changes the use of technology and the impact it has on things (both positively and negatively). Students no longer have to wait until they get home to access the internet to share or find information. I believe this has led to an increase in instant satisfaction/gratification. I have had students ask me if I had updated their marks online and two minutes later they leave the classroom, open their phone and check their mark. I feel like we all struggle to be patient and wait for information. It is hard when we always have access.

There were two stats that I found really interesting regarding the grade 4 students surveyed:

  • 25% of students have a cell phone
  • one-fifth of these students sleep with their cell phone at night

    Photo Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy via Compfight cc

I personally think that grade 4 is WAY too young, but that’s just my opinion (I hope I don’t offend anyone who’s grade 4 does have a phone). My husband and I always discuss the age that we think is appropriate for a child to have a cell phone. We bothfeel that they should have one by the time they are in high school. Why do we feel this way? I think we feel that kids become a little more independent when they go off to high school. They usually have a further distance to travel to get to school, they can go out for lunch on their own and they are most likely a little more responsible than a 10-12 year old. That being said, there area lot of other factors to consider. The truth is there is no right or wrong age for your kid to have a phone. The right age is whatever you feel is right for you and your children. Check out these questions to ask before deciding whether your child is ready or not for a phone.

The thing I found interesting were the differences between boys and girls, especially when it came to online safety and parent involvement. I thought that it was really interesting that girls have more rules than boys in place at home when using the internet. My guess is that parents are more worried about who their daughters are meeting online as opposed to what they are doing online. Having both a son and a daughter, I feel like I would be more worried about my son accessing pornography than my daughter being lured by a predator although both are definite concerns of mine. I also found it interesting that a larger percentage of girls than boys feel they can be hurt by online strangers and see the internet as unsafe. Why do girls feel this way? Is it from stories they hear in the media? Are their parents using scare tactics in hopes to prevent them from being caught in a situation they wouldn’t want to be in? Or is it because women, like Monica Lewinsky, for example seem to get the brunt of social shaming in a lot of cases?

After reading the executive summary I looked into some other articles that give advice on how to manage technology use and limits that encourage positive use of technology. We know technology isn’t going anywhere, so we need to learn how to manage it and use it properly. Encouraging our children and students to use technology in positive ways is a great way to try and change the way we see technology. Students need to know how to unplug and what to do when they unplug. It is important that we teach them to know how to function with technology and without it. Among the reasons students use technology, creativity such as making videos and civic uses were among the lowest reasons. We can easily change this stat by encouraging them to use technology to create videos for projects and assignments at school. We can encourage them to stand up and have a voice with a positive message. By encouraging students to go beyond simply connecting with friends we can change the way they look at technology as well.

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