FRONTLINE: Growing Up Online



Program your DVRs or TiVos! If you don’t have one, then program your VCR (can you still buy tapes?) or make sure you are sitting in front of the TV on Tuesday night.

One of the best shows on television, Frontline (yes, a 30 year old just said that about a news program), focuses on the online nature of the students who walk through our classroom doors each day in Growing Up Online. Below is a short enticement directly from their press release.

“This Tuesday’s FRONTLINE comes with a warning for everyone who’s never made a “friend” on MySpace, chatted with someone online, or sent a text message from a cell phone: You live in a very different world than the one in which a new generation is growing up, and this widening digital divide is becoming much more profound than anyone might have once imagined.

In “Growing Up Online,” producers Rachel Dretzin and John Maggio take us inside the private worlds that kids are making on the Web, often outside the view, and comprehension, of the adults in their lives.”

Based on my very unscientific survey of my 7th and 8th grade students early this year, our kids are exactly the kids the Frontline producers are talking about.

  • 80% of the students in my classes have Internet at home
  • 60% have social networking (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) profiles
  • 54% of students primarily access the Internet to create, edit or use their social networking profiles

Keep in mind this data was collected in September. I am sure the numbers have only grown since then. As we all know the Internet can be a phenomenally powerful tool, but it can be a very scary place as well. How do we and our students deal with that?

“You have a generation faced with a society with fundamentally different properties thanks to the Internet,” says Danah Boyd, a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “We can turn our backs and say, ‘This is bad,’ or, ‘We don’t want a world like this.’ It’s not going away. So instead of saying that this is terrible, instead of saying, ‘Stop MySpace; stop Facebook; stop the Internet,’ it’s a question for us of how we teach ourselves and our children to live in a society where these properties are fundamentally a way of life. This is public life today.”

Who is teaching our students “the ropes?” Sadly, I think for the most part they are simply teaching each other. As frightening as it sounds it bares similarity to the days when students learned sex education from each other as well.

So if you have a little room to spare on your DVR or have a few free moments on Tuesday night I urge you to check out this episode of Frontline.


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