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Archive for the ‘The Internet’ Category

Surfing with the Kids: 6 Surprising Benefits

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

For the record, let’s stipulate that there’s a lot of worthless, if not downright offensive, material online and that some who lurk in cyberspace have less than honorable intentions. Let’s agree, too, that some of us are smitten, perhaps too much, by our tech toys. Accordingly, MIT professor Sherry Turkle warns us in her new, must-read book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other, we ought to consider the “price” of our “enchantment” with technology.  (Read an excerpt here.)

But as Turkle is quick to remind us, the Internet isn’t going anywhere. It will continue to change everything from our relationships to our professions to the way we think about life. The question of how it will change us, though, is up to us. Howard Rheingold, the man who coined the terms “virtual communities” and “smart mobs” and has had a front-row seat on the unfolding drama of the Internet, puts it this way:

Will our grandchildren grow up knowing how to pluck the answer to any question out of the air, summon their social networks to assist them personally or professionally, organize political movements and markets online? Will they collaborate to solve problems, participate in online discussions as a form of civic engagement, share and teach and learn to their benefit and that of everyone else? Or will they grow up knowing that the online world is a bewildering puzzle to which they have few clues, a dangerous neighborhood where their identities can be stolen, a morass of spam and porn, misinformation and disinformation, urban legends, hoaxes, and scams?… the humanity or toxicity of next year’s digital culture depends to a very large degree on what we know, learn, and teach each other.

Call me an optimist, but I think we can seize the digital future-ironically by joining forces and sharing the experience with digital natives–children and teens who have grown up with the Net (if not your own, a friend’s or neighbors’ kid!). This might seem counterintuitive. (more…)

What’s In Your Family’s Digital Future?

Monday, January 10th, 2011

My daughter signed up my oldest grandson, eight, for his first gmail account. Within a few hours he had figured out how to sign on his little brother, who turned five last June. He already knows how to check his email on his mother’s iTouch.   This didn’t happen out of nowhere.  When he was three or four, he learned how to read the word “START” by logging on to his Webkinz account, and now he and his younger brother frequent Club Penguin where they can “waddle around and meet new friends.”   It’s social media with training wheels.

What’s happening in my daughter’s house is happening almost everywhere.   I hear other women talk about following their (older) grandchildren on Facebook, keeping in touch via Skype, learning how to text because a teenage grandchild thinks emails are lame.

Undoubtedly, a lot of good will come from our digital connectedness.   Perhaps technology can help build better intergenerational relationships.  We can relate to our grandkids without always having to go through their parents.  We’ll learn more details and more nuanced information about our grandchildren than our grandparents ever knew about us–who their friends are,  their likes and dislikes.   Even when it’s hard or impossible to see each other, we have ways of staying in touch.  And who knows?  Maybe they’ll think we’re hip (or whatever word they use now) because we didn’t get stuck in the Industrial Age!

All to the good, but even scientists who study the effects of the Internet don’t know where all this connection and conversation will eventually take us.  In her new book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Teachnology and Less from Each Other, MIT professor Sherry Turkle, who has been pondering these questions for the last 15 years, notes that we’re only at “the beginning.”  She raises some important issues about computer-mediated communications, among them… (more…)

The Making of “The Relationship Revolution:

Friday, September 17th, 2010

This entry, initially posted on my Consequential Strangers blog, has been slightly adapted for Mother U.

A week ago, “The Relationship Revolution,” the lead story in the September/October issue of The Psychotherapy Networker , was finally published (online and IRL).  The piece has been in the works for nine months, because the story kept changing.  Tech is moving so fast that trying to capture it is like taking an action shot on a slow shutter speed.  Also, my editor, fairly new to the Internet and social media when we first talked, kept changing his vision of where he wanted the article to take readers.  “Up the mountain” was how he kept putting it. (more…)