I spoke with The Guardian’s Rob Booth for an article that predicts life in Britain 20 years hence (a dangerous preoccupation…), an offshoot of the paper’s coverage of the royal baby. How will the future deal with social media and information technology, he asked:
Rather than living through a new revolution in computer technology, the next generation is poised to master it. They will, according to Aleks Krotoski, an academic and writer, become more sophisticated and critical in their consumption of the web and develop a subtle etiquette around social networks. For example, they will respect that embarrassing things people posted years ago should be treated with a sense of fade that human memory allows but software does not. “It will be instinctive, because they have grown up with it,” she said.
And in similar news, the LSE released the latest in their EU Kids Online research programme, a report titled Country Classification: Opportunities, Risks, Harm and Parental Mediation. The first author was Dr Ellen Helsper.
Here’s the kicker (from the press release):
Children in the UK are protected by restrictions, with parents tending to overprotect their children, significantly reducing their online opportunities
In other words, they observe that the UK (and several other countries in the EU) rely on restrictive regulations, and kids would be better able to experience the great opportunities of the online world if parents and others actively mediated their kids’ access, rather than assumed the “problem” is being “solved” by others. Get involved with your kids’ surfing, the report seems to say.
I previously covered the EU Kids Online project on this blog and in the 'Where have all the kids gone?' chapter of Untangling the Web: What the internet is Doing to You.
If you want to know what the internet is actually “doing” to kids, I recommend reading this and other reports from this group; theirs is the most comprehensive, global study of effects. Their rigorous and longitudinal work in this area offers real evidence that should put your mind at ease.
As a reminder:
Six years on from a first report about how kids in the UK use the web (some harrowing accounts about their not-so-critical consumption of content - intel on this is covered here by a long-time-ago-self: notes from the project director’s keynote address at the Association of Internet Researcher’s conference in Chicago in 2005), this is a cross-national study based out of the London School of Economics. It’s not just Europe: also includes comparisons w USA, Russia, Australia & Brazil.