Technology is not making our kids stupid!

by mediocremum on 11/02/2014

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Myths About Teenagers and Tech that Parents should ignore

The internet is good for teenagers

On the weekend I read an article by Elizabeth Pearle, the Senior Editor of HuffPost  Teen called 5 Myths that Parents should ignore about Teens and Technology.  She challenges the myths that technology is making our kids thick, anti-social and causing them to have attention spans of goldfish but in fact, technology is making them more engaged, better readers and writers and more sociable than ever.

It is one of those articles, that you think, yes, she nailed it and I couldn’t have written it better. Well she is a professional writer, so it’s not surprising. The content was spot on and I found myself nodding the whole way through and was compelled to share it.

I strongly recommend you read it before you read the rest of this post.

My Two Bits

However, there are a few things that I would like to add from my own personal experience as a parent, educational technology consultant and social media addict.

‘They are not addicted to technology they are addicted to each other’

In the summer, I had the opportunity to spend more time with my 15 year old niece. I’ve been away for most of her life so haven’t got to know her as well as I’ve had liked. She does spend a lot of time on her phone, like most teens and when I say a lot, she is on it constantly even into the wee hours of the night. It winds the majority of adults around her crazy.

However, it doesn’t bother me as a high user of tech myself, I’m fully aware that she can talk to her friends and join in a conversation with me at the same time. So, instead of chastising her, I showed interest in what she was chatting about and in the end she opened up and started sharing with me.

‘Text speak is not making them stupid’

I couldn’t even hazard guess at the number of messages teens send in a day. But I know that I’ve personally sent over a 160,000 tweets which probably equates to a rather large manuscript, more than I ever wrote at school. Kids are reading and writing messages relentlessly, this can’t be a bad thing, even if they throw in creative ‘text’ spellings, they’re engaged with language. Isn’t this what we want?

‘It’s causing them to become anti-social’

Even though I spend a lot of time on Social Media sites, I’m one of the least sociable people you will meet. I hate chatting on the phone or making small talk with people when I first meet them. However, with the advent of social media, I find that I’m more sociable than ever. I seek out conversations on Twitter and Facebook, join in and often start my own conversations.

‘Teens are careless about online privacy’

I asked my niece about this tonight and she said ‘they really do care’  This may be one of the reasons that the younger generation are no longer using Facebook as they don’t want everyone, including their Nan, knowing what they are up to and migrating to Snapchat.  Teens have been private since as long as I can remember and I was too.  Getting anything out of them is more difficult than pulling teeth.

Prior to coming to the UK and applying for jobs, I told her to clean up her Facebook page.  She had an interview and the person said ‘you do realise your Facebook page is wide open’  she said ‘yes, I have nothing to hide’ which he replied, ‘yes I could see that’. So lets give them a bit more credit and space to be teens.

Safer Internet Day 11th Feb 2014

As I’ve said before the internet is an amazing place to learn and children who don’t have access to it could be academically disadvantaged. There are safety issues we need to consider, but I do worry that all of the e-safety talks and information aimed at parents ends up only scaring the hell out of them resulting in them restricting their child’s access to this resources.

Head in the sand?

One of the most frustrating things for me is other parent’s unwillingness to understand technology a bit better so they can engage in meaningful conversations with their kids. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard parents say ‘I don’t do Twitter or Facebook’ I’m not suggesting they sign up to all the platforms and lose years of their life like I have. But I do encourage them to sign up for an account, log into their kids accounts or borrow a friends to have a little look around so they can talk to their children in an informed way and show interest.

I know all the kids are now using Snapchat, I’ve personally never used it, even though my generation are starting to have a play.  However, my 20 year old niece is with us at the moment and I made her sit down with me and show me how it works.

It’s no different!

However, as a parent, with anything else are children get involved with we educate ourselves about it. If our child chooses to play rugby, we appreciate the dangers and get them a mouth guard. When they are old enough to get themselves to school we check out the route.  If they spend the night at their mates, we get to know the parents.

I’m not suggesting if your child is going to their first rave you drop a couple of Ecstasy tablets, put on some house music and dance around the lounge. However, you would educate your children on the dangers of illicit drugs? No?

So, why don’t many parents do the same when it comes to technology?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kara February 11, 2014 at 9:13 am

Fab post!
As a parent of teens I get really frustrated with the amount of time they spend with their head in their phones. Whilst a lot of the time they’re watching YouTube videos they are also creating them. I was getting really frustrated the other day trying to put together a video and my teen showed me how to do it…..didn’t even know he could!

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2 mediocremum February 11, 2014 at 9:49 am

Morning Kara, you and I are probably worse than most teens! Ha ha ha.

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3 Angela February 11, 2014 at 10:19 pm

I have to disagree.

1) When people say kids are becoming anti-social I believe what they mean is that their ability to socialize in person is declining. Since the progression of text messaging society has less social visits, less phone calls and thus less opportunities to have real face to face conversations. I will also add that a text messaging conversation never ends. This has also become a problem of relationships. When a person is in a never ending conversation you already know everything that’s happening with them all the time. That leaves little to discuss if you get the chance to see them in person and you’re more likely to become disinterested in the relationship. After all, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

2) The language of text messaging has caused teens and youth to have trouble recalling the proper spelling of words. Since technology is always readily available to them in and out of school, so is the use of spell check. If a child knows it can right click an underlined word to get the correct spelling, why would they bother to try to remember it? Teens may not have issues spelling words like laugh out loud so using LOL all the time might not be an issue, however, it is the knowing all their problems can be solved for them with the use of technology that truly impairs their potential and learning.

3) Teens don’t know about true privacy in regards to the internet and neither do most adults. I see people of all ages constantly allowing Facebook and other parties to access their timelines in order to read an article or game that was suggested. This is sending information out into cyber space, to other third parties etc. There are many websites that say they have secure sites but really don’t. Talking to one child about what they think privacy is, is certainly not enough of a sample to say they they are self aware of their posts, comments, pictures etc. Many people are naive in general and especially youth. That’s not to say you should restrict your kids from a life of technology, we are living in a world dependent of it. Instead parents should be consistently speaking to their children about the safety of internet use and monitor it.

The saddest part is that this net-generation no longer feels comfortable even speaking on the phone or voicing their opinions publicly because they are constantly behind screens preventing them from being the true social creatures that humans are. Human being are what we are today because of settling down into groups and living in physical real time reality. This is just not the case any more. As much as technology connects us it also separates us.

Just a mothers opinion.

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4 mediocremum February 12, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Angela, please do disagree, it’s all about getting us talking about it more and thank you so much for taking the time to compose such an in-depth response.

And I completely agree with you when you said ‘Instead parents should be consistently speaking to their children about the safety of internet use and monitor it.’ This is the most important thing to me, I’m regularly shocked when I see how little some parents do to protect their children, most of the time they would like to put things in place but genuinely don’t know where to start.

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5 Actually Mummy... February 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Hear hear. The people who don’t engage and support their children through an online life will most likely be those who end up with a problem – either of their child getting into a mess with it, or of their child missing out of opportunities due to the lack of it.

There will always be a number of children who use it badly, in the same way that a number of children will fall victim to drugs, but smart kids with supportive parents, and good schools are no more at risk for using the internet than they are taking a walk in the dark. It’s just a question of being informed.

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6 mediocremum February 12, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for addressing one of the points that had been niggling me. We’ve all seen outrageous examples of teens gone bad, most recently it’s been the neknominations, which do worry me. But hopefully with a bit more discussion and education we will see less of it. But you and I know, that teens will always be teens. I’m just so glad that Facebook wasn’t around when I was a teenager.

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