I came across this Q&A on APP.com with Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University-Dominguez Hills. Rosen has long studied “the Net generation,” the first to grow up with the Internet. I pasted the ENTIRE Q&A below because I think it’s a great take on the issue and has some good information within. Naturally, however, I have some comments…
Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University-Dominguez Hills, has long studied “the Net generation,” the first to have grown up with the Internet, not to mention cell phones.
In “Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation” (Palgrave Macmillan), he helps parents understand social networks. His advice: Talk to your kids, learn the technology and don’t panic. USA TODAY’s Janet Kornblum spoke with the author.
Q: Why did you write this book?
A: For kids — what I’m calling the Net generation, anybody born after 1980 — technology is not a tool. It just is. It’s part of their life. They think of it differently.
PCPan: I’ve always considered the year to be 1985-ish. I feel the kids that graduated 5 years ago can still turn off technology when they need to and recognize it as a tool – not a necessity. But that is a minor detail…
Q: How has technology influenced this generation?
A: They do things in a more abbreviated fashion. They IM (instant-message) with multiple people at the same time. They can’t uni-task. They do everything on their own. They’re very self-motivated.
PCPan: So true on uni-tasking! But I don’t think they are self-motivated… I feel they are more motivated to do as little work as possible. I.e., send an email instead of picking up the phone. Also, as I’ve said before – I’d love to see the long term effects of the IM abbrv’d lingo on the proper English language.
Q: How does it specifically affect their relationships?
A: They make commitments to people online they don’t even know. But their strongest commitment is to their family. They see more of the world as a social world. So social problems are very important to them.
PCPan: Yes they talk to strangers online, but I have yet to see evidence that their strongest commitment is to their family. I think it’s towards their MySpace page…
Q: Do you think the Internet is fundamentally changing kids?
A: This world encourages us to multitask. I think it encourages kids to be much less patient. More terse.
PCPan: you better believe it!
Q: Why are social networks so popular?
A: When I grew up (a baby boomer), our social life was outside. We hung out. The next generation spent time at the mall. This generation spends time at home — connected. Kids have to be social. It’s all part of the preteen and teen years and young-adult years. MySpace happened to come around at the right time when you had a whole generation of kids who needed a place to be social.
PCPan: I am the “mall” generation. I completely understand this, though I debate the word choice of “right time”… would any time have been right? Is any time wrong? Whenever it happened, the current teen generation was bound to lock on.
Q: Weigh the positives and the negatives of social networking.
A: Because they have a combination of people they know face-to-face in the real world and people they don’t, (those of the Net generation) get a lot of chances to bounce ideas and to test out things on a social network that they probably wouldn’t do face-to-face. I hear that a lot from kids — that they feel much more comfortable saying things online than they ever would off-line. That’s a real positive because they get to test out their world.
PCPan: Saying things online they wouldn’t say offline is not a good thing in general. Forget about the dangers of giving out too much personal information to strangers, it encourages being sheepish and not learning basic face-to-face conversational skills… which seem to be universally fading slowly. However, I will not deny that for some, being able to express yourself at all – even if the Internet is the only place you feel comfortable – is a good thing for sure!
Q: So, how should parents think about social networks?
A: You can certainly use your parenting skills to help them get the most out of MySpace — to not be addicted, to not be bullied and to know what to do when you’re bullied. But taking (MySpace) away from them is really like restricting going to the mall with their friends or going to school and talking to their friends. It’s tantamount to making them a pariah.
PCPan: I agree. Don’t fight it – learn it.
Q: Can you give some solid parenting tips?
A: Talk to your kids. If the computer is in their rooms — which is not a good idea — walk in and ask them what they are doing. Ask them what’s new, what they like about it. Don’t be judgmental. Tell them you want to learn. Kids love rules, believe it or not. Kids need limits. They’re defining a new generational attitude. But they’re not new teenagers. We know what adolescents do. You have to learn what potential problems there might be, and then, like a good, authoritative parent, you discuss those with your kids. You know there might be sexual predators out there. How do you handle that?
PCPan: Absolutely right on… and this is also where PC Pandora monitoring software can help…
Q: Compare the Internet and social networking to television.
A: Every waking minute of every day, they are interacting with some sort of technological medium, except perhaps when they’re in school. Even then, kids are texting from their pockets. They’re wearing iPods all day. It’s just a different world for them. The impact of television on society took years and years and years. And we had a chance to adapt to it. The kinds of tools these kids are using are vast. Nobody heard of MySpace five years ago. Nobody heard of an iPod five years ago. Nobody heard of instant messaging. This is a rapidly changing technological world and the kids are the first ones to adapt to technology.
PCPan: Very true. I don’t think there has been such an overnight change in technology and way of life EVER. The only thing that could be remotely compared to it would be the birth of classic rock and roll in the earl/mid ‘60s. One minute it’s jazz and big band and slow music… the next, it’s the Stones and Hendrix. But to go from no Internet to instant communication and knowledge is something we’ve never experienced. And while the older generations see the change, kids today can’t comprehend a world without it (kind of like my generation and microwaves or VCRs).
Q: Are parents keeping up?
A: Parents have a total misconception about what their kids are doing online. They don’t know how much time they’re spending. They don’t have the breadth of what’s happening to the kids online. They think the kids are being attacked by predators all the time. They are way over-concerned about the technology that the kids are using. Everything is so different from year to year. No wonder the parents are afraid. They don’t have to know everything, but they’ve got to see what MySpace is about.
PCPan: I agree wholeheartedly and once again reiterate the knowledge is power. You can’t have the power in your house if you simply ‘don’t know.’ Talk to your kids and use technology to help you attain knowledge you can’t otherwise get. PC Pandora can play a vital role in any 21st century parent’s arsenal of equipment.