So I finished reading Peggy Orenstein’s book “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” several days ago, and have been thinking about the last couple of chapters for days. Here she writes about the role of technology in girls lives (from toddler-hood onward)! Several years ago I wrote an editorial in Advances in Nursing Science about the lack of women’s presence on the Web, and what this absence means for women being “present” in the world where it counts. I should have anticipated what might be coming! Lo and behold, among very young kids all the way through college, research shows that there is no disparity in pure numbers based on gender when it comes to knowing and using the resources of the web. But there is a gender difference — boys tend to play games. Girls like some games (of a different sort), they love to draw and create stuff on line, but mostly — they connect with friends, and have literally hundreds of them on line! Hooray for the girls!
Of course there are heaps of hazards for children on the internet, and especially for girls. I think most adults are more or less aware of the horror stories that are out there. But some of the hazards are subtle, and affect all users. Take for example the ultra marketing presence – ads everywhere, subtle and not-so-subtle. And this is oh-so-true for web sites that cater to children, even the most responsible sites that meet COPPA standards (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) for web sites designed for children under 13. COPPA is a great regulatory step, but it mentions nothing about advertising, nor does it (rightfully) set guidelines for images and ideas that shape children’s development. After all, regulation can only go so far, and COPPA does require that parents must give consent for the child to use the site, and must have access to everything that the child does on line. If you are a parent or grandparent, or adult involved with a young child, you will know the “standards” the “messaging” you want to set for the children in your life.
But there is one aspect of this world that bears further comment where girls are concerned — social networking. There are web sites designed for children to use that provide child-appropriate alternatives to facebook and twitter, and that introduce them to the world of social media. One that Orenstein describes in some detail is Everloop – named for the concept that “looping” is a more appropriate activity for children than “networking”; meaning that a child’s social networking world needs to be confined to a “loop” of friends that the parents know, until they are have sufficient mature judgement to network among “friends of friends.” If you have not yet been introduced to a site like Everloop, visit the very succinct page that explains this to parents. And consider following their blog. The April 8th blog entry starts with the following statement that sums up what I think everyone in my generation would do well to consider:
Social media is here to stay and kids love it. Whether they are using social networks, texting their friends on their cell phones or playing online games, social media has become ubiquitous among kids and teens and it is time for parents and educators to embrace it as well.
In a recent Teaching Tolerance article, “Your Students Love Social Media … and So Can You,” writer Camille Jackson says that though there are valid concerns about social media, like cyber-bullying, we need to support it instead of “shielding children from it and admonishing them for using it.” (April 8th, 2011 Posted by Everloop in Industry News)