I read about a survey and study presented this week by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop called Families Matter: Designing Media for a Digital Age. What I got out of it is that a lot of parents are just like me when it comes to teaching, protecting and entertaining our children today.
Here’s what the center’s executive director Michael Levine wrote about the nationwide study of 800 parents of 3- to 10-year-olds:
(The study) documents how most families are in a “transition period,” one in which parents recognize the importance of technology in their children’s learning and future success, but don’t always grant their kids access to the newer forms of media transforming their own adult lives.
The report profiles how parents’ personal experiences with media are one of the key factors shaping the approaches they take in guiding their children’s media consumption. …Of parents surveyed, 57% recognize that digital media presents ways for children to converse and connect with friends and family, but two-thirds of parents restrict their children from chatting online and visiting social networking sites.
So, yeah, I agree with those two-thirds. Three- to 10-year-olds don’t need Facebook accounts on which to chat with Grandma. That doesn’t seem odd to me.
Here’s where it does get tricky for me: Moshi Monsters. Basically a social networking and computer game site for kids, it hit 50 million users this week. Rose Red is one of them. We talk a lot about proper on-line behavior and avoiding creeps. She got asked on the site, “What’s your real name?” She responded correctly, “I can’t tell you that.” Then she told me about it and my creep alert went up and we reported that person. Maybe it was some other 10-year-old just being friendly, but maybe it wasn’t.
Another place that makes me cringe: the PlayStation Network. Chatting does go on there, mostly between classmates, but strangers have chimed in as well.
Would I rather that the only place they could communicate with friends be a rotary dial telephone with a really long cord they could drag down the hall? Sometimes. But then I’d have to live that way too.
So I have to strike a balance. Teach as much as I can about safe and proper on-line behavior and work to control the exposure. I own the computer, the TV and the electricity. (Cool Breeze saved up to buy the PS3, so he owns that.) I can say when and for how long they’re used. I can say, “It’s time to read,” or “Let’s play Monopoly,” or “Turn that off and go outside.” Is it foolproof? No. But it’s up to me to be involved and teach them how to operate in the world, especially the digital world.
- Moshi Monsters hits 50 million members (telegraph.co.uk)