Not ‘the new Dr. Spock’

By Anne Collier

The headline of a recent CNET interview with MIT professor Henry Jenkins suggests he might be, but – though he isn’t a pediatrician or child development specialist – he is one of the US’s top experts on social media. So he knows a lot about how young people’s social producing and creative networking with digital media. Referring to research showing that “57% of teens online have produced media and about a third of them have produced media that they shared with people beyond their immediate friends and families,” Dr. Jenkins told CNET that those 57% “are kids who are learning to share knowledge, to collaborate over distances, to work with people from diverse backgrounds, to participate in a global culture – those are really powerful things that are emerging in this generation. But they’re also facing dilemmas about intellectual property, cyberbullying and how to navigate these environments.” It’s challenging to parent them as they do this navigating, he says, challenges that “are not anything their parents taught them how to deal with. They don’t have a language to talk to their kids about a lot of the issues they’re facing online.” It’s becoming more imperative to learn enough about social networking to try to talk with our kids, I’d say, because – if we try too hard to control or even ban it, communication breaks down and kids go underground. They have so many workarounds and opportunities to connect without our knowledge. “Turning your home into a surveillance culture where you don’t trust your kids is dangerous because you’re going to make it harder to communicate with your child,” Henry told CNET. “So part of what I’ve argued is that the kids don’t need someone looking over their shoulders, they need someone watching their backs.” For more on his research and views, see “Participation: Key opp for kids.”

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