Friday, 30 May 2014

Teens take the Internet for granted. They believe that it's their birthright. Why not? They have never known a world without it.

He is connected to the most powerful network 
that has ever existed just to interact with his friends.

Some thoughts about Internet use by pubescents and teenagers. 

My own grandchildren all have smart cell phones, iPads and some have portable computers. The oldest is 16 and the other seven are recent new teenagers and younger. It is a normal part of lives to use this networked technology. They don't know a world without it. It’s routine.

Students with smart phones and pads are constantly connected to the most complex two way broadband network that has ever existed. We know of no other experience like this in human history save the introductions of printing in the middle 16th Century which created an almost glacial change to society. 

This was followed by electric based broadcast radio and later TV which was faster in its socio-political impact when it brought the Vietnam and presidential assassinations into our living rooms. Now a two way broadband network can instantly stream video of a school dance indiscretion to the world.

Grade 7 and 8 pubescents are connected to this endless ever expanding network and use it to define their social norms with each other as they mature towards relationships. What they develop becomes networked social norms and values. In fact their growth towards adulthood may well be formed not only by direct human interaction but by these socially taut mediated network experiences. This is a phenomenon that needs a lot more study.

Children this age know the techniques but not the outcomes of these cyber techniques. I  know from my questions to them, that they understand the surface of this network but do not realize that the personal profiling that social media providers build about their users profiles them for life. They don't realize that future employers now see this trail of social interactions as fuel for their hiring decisions.

Instant tweets of bullying are compounded by these networked connections. It has created recent cyber bullying legislation as governments react to tragedies. This is the result of young impressionable teenagers first warning of a suicide and then actually doing it. And before they commit suicide they do a show on YouTube with cue cards expressing their angst.

Living a cyber life or a mediated life through the network can be dangerous. Selfies, comments all expressed in a short hand cyber language indicates that the medium is clearly the message as it redefines social interactions. To be negatively featured on Tweets and Facebook has had drastic outcomes. When bullying was confined to the school yard or neighbourhood it was manageable. Now that it posted on a network and it compounds literally at the speed of light and becomes unmanageable by anyone.

This is the first time in history that culture develops using a networked cyber techniques. The implications of this technology in the hands of impressionable sensitive kids is now being seen by the increase in suicides. 

School is now a real life drop in centre. Kids attend real school but remain connected to the internet. School becomes a convenient WiFi connection centre. Teachers are now using the internet with their tech savvy students to advance educational opportunities. The extent  that curricula is also integrated into the internet is growing and it to has implications to learning when it is cyber focused. Anything this network touches is transformed.

Certainly constant networking via cyber techniques will redefine culture.  This is normal for anyone born after 1985. Internet is "normal" to a pre millennium 20 somethings. Everyone born after 2000 does not know a world that is not networked. 

This change to society not only a first world phenomenon. Third world cell phone and now smart phone use is very large and also not expensive as I found out in 2010 on a visit to Egypt. 

Cell phones were everywhere even in remote areas at the bottom of the country on Lake Nasser. When the Arab Spring started in 2011 the Egyptian authorities tried to turn off the cell phone networks and the internet. Much of the protest of the Mubarak regime was fuelled by either cell phone networks or the internet social media.

Social change comes to our kids using powerful networks for their social interactions as much as socio-political change occurs when and where these technologies are available. You cannot have a broadband networks running 24/7 worldwide without creating changes to how humans interact with each other. What is personal  can quickly become viral and takes off on tangents never intended by the person who posted the information.

© Copyright 2014 Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.

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