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Highly connected children:
implications for education
by Edna Aphek
- 3

A survey published in March 2003, conducted by Grunwald Associates, found that 2 million American children have their own websites[13]

The survey also predicts that the number of kids with personal sites is expected to rise to more than 6 million American children by 2005

The following table prepared by Grunwald Associates will give us some idea as to the ages of these young web masters.

Kids as Webmasters

 
 Have Site
 Plan Site
Ages 6-8
4%
 28%
Ages 9-12
9%
33%
Ages 3-17
 15%
29%
Ages 6-17
 10%
30%

Base: Kids 6-17 with home access

Source: Grunwald Associates

What influence do the Digital Media have on the wired kids?

I would like to present two opposing views as to the influence the electronic media might have on the Digital Born children.

One view formulated in the eighties, is that of Neil Postman, an American philosopher. Postman deals mainly with the children of TV.[14]

Postman is wary of the new technologies .He fears that by adopting them too quickly we bring about the disappearance of childhood and destroy learning and logical-sequential thinking habits, structure and order.

The contrasting view is that of Don Tapscott, who comes from the business world. Tapscott’s view deals mainly with the children of the internet [15] . Tapscott believes that a new better order is emerging; he finds the Net children who master technology, to be inquisitive learners, responsible, tolerant and caring individuals.

Let’s take a closer look at Postman:

According to Postman, the world of electronic communication is a world without values, books and order. This is especially true of the world in which television reigns. Postman’s child is one who lost his childhood but never reached maturity. Postman describes a society in which children and adults watch the same movies and tele-romances (soap operas), listen to the same pop music, and play the same computer games.

The adults in such a society become more and more childish as they try to pursue the youth culture, whereas the children, to whom all the secrets of adulthood are revealed, especially  violence and sex, become, seemingly, mature. Seemingly, because they are mature externally but not emotionally.

As the differentiating line between the child and the adult blurs, concepts that distinguish the adult from the child, such as independence and responsibility, become unclear too. Postman describes a society at risk, living in a sinking world without books, without order; a chaotic meaningless world.

In his writings Postman describes children who live in a "twilight zone" between illusion and reality. It is a world in which parents and teachers have lost much of their authority: Postman suggests that adults should gradually unfold the world of adulthood to their young ones. The content, the dosage and the timing should be determined by the adult, or else the very essence of childhood will disappear.

[13] http://www.grunwald.com/
[14]Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood, NY:Vintage Books,1994
[15]Don Tapscott , Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1998

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