I have a line in one of my songs that laments that “I learned about life at the age of 3, had it all their on my TV screen” so I can attest what happens when you expose a kid to too much media too soon – that’s me as an early teen on the right btw.
But the web is far more empowering. Not like passive media at all. If MySpace was available when I was a teenager – I would have been all over it. I probably would have found new outlets for expression. I probably wouldn’t have felt so lonely.
But maybe I’m lucky it wasn’t?
The great many things I know I fucked up while learning to be a man, aren’t all over the web, to be findable and usable forever by those that want to do so.
I didn’t have responsible and knowing parenting that would have educated me to the consequences of living life so in the open with so many. And I haven’t grown so old as to forget that my teenage years were messy, confusing, and sometimes downright ugly. I’m happy to have lived them – I wouldn’t change them – they made me who I am – but thank the Lord it’s difficult to exploit them. They are difficult to exploit because because they weren’t public, cached, searchable and available for all to see in perpetuity.
Maybe my childhood is an example of an edge case. But I feel a responsibility to ask if is not.
Back on April 5th I wrote a small piece in response to the concern Doc Searls posted over media consumption and children, including the net. I pretty much agreed with him, but wondered aloud how he would handle it when his son ventures onto MySpace. He came by and replied in a comment:
Ya’ll missed some modifiers. I said,
“I think letting *small* children watch TV is like giving them Quaaludes. I also think kids in their *most *formative years*…”
So I’m talking about young kids here: from 1 to 6 years old; or, to stretch it a bit, through age 9 or 10.
Thirteen year olds are another matter. I wasn’t talking about them, and I’ll gladly defer to the expertise of Danah and others on what MySpace and Xanga and Second Life and World of Warcraft might mean for them.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a 9-year-old kid who still believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, and who loves to swim and play basketball and read books. From what I can tell so far, the stories and lessons he’s getting from those books, and from his Waldorf School (where none of his peers, for what it’s worth, watch much TV or use computers… yet), will help equip him to be a discerning and independent soul in the Connected World where he and his peers will spend plenty of time in their teenage years and beyond.
I definitely missed the modifiers. Read his post again. He did make a distinction between being a teenager and not.