As I continue to sort books I am listening to podcasts on the Connecticut NPR station (WNPR) from the archives of “Where We Live”.
I just finished listening to a podcast called “Schools and Online Socialization” about online socialization and children and teenagers. The show was supposed to be mainly about high school students and the use of online social networking on sites such as MySpace and FaceBook. There were discussions of online “friends” versus real life friends and about chatting with IM versus face to face discussions or telephone discussions.
‘Schools’ was in the title but not much was said about it, other than a discussion of whether or not a person’s online persona helped get them out of the clique they are in at school. For example, students who are not popular can make their own online profile to show who they feel they really are and perhaps other students may read that information and get to know the person for who they truly are. Also a teacher who was on the show said she reads her students profiles and she learns more about them than she’d have known otherwise.
There was some talk about privacy issues. There was not much talk about dangers of online social networking and certainly nothing was said about online predators.
Later in the show when they were taking questions from callers, a mother stated that although the sites require that users be at least 13 years old, that her daughter felt left out as all the friends were using it when they were years younger than 13, and this mother was following the rules. The discussion was long and included one person saying that some children as young as 7 and 8 are actively using the social networking sites by lying and saying they are aged 13 or over. In the end I was disappointed when someone on the show recommended to the mother that she lie to the site, break the rules, and say that the girl is old enough so long as the mother is actively monitoring the chat that is happening.
There was also a section of the show where several teenaged girls were interviewed. They seemed quite responsible as they said the only people they let be their “friends” were people they knew in real life already. Hearing them talk it made the whole worry about whether online socialization was bad seem overblown and a figment of paranoid parents’ imaginations.
One teen was on the show saying he did not have a FaceBook and he actively refused to participate with online networking, saying that he preferred face to face friends; however, later he called himself “unsocialized” which I felt was not good to say (and an odd thing to admit).
The outlook portrayed was that this online social networking is what is happening now and that it will continue to grow in the future. The gist was that the teens might as well get into it now as it is unavoidable. One last comment made was that the President was going to have one so in order to stay in tune with society basically everyone had better get into the game.
Overall the show was quite tame, I felt, and was actually encouraging teenagers (and younger aged children) to get online and do social networking, that nothing was wrong with it, basically. It was mentioned that other shows they did were about cyber-bullying but that was not really discussed on this show.
While I don’t yet have teenagers I do have children aged 7 and 10 who are feeling pressure from friends to join social networking sites geared for that younger set. I don’t allow my kids to be on those sites. I feel my kids are not really even ready for steady phone communications, so they should not be communicating in shallow conversations over IM and through Internet sites. For the time being I insist that my children socialize with other children face to face.
To listen to this podcast about online social networking for preteens and teenagers, go here.
Technorati Tags: online social networking, online social networking teenagers, online social networking children, children online safety, parenting.