The post is from a while ago, but we’re grappling with the issue and its full consequences today. When I first started blogging in 2003, there were 12 year olds aplenty on places like Diaryland and Livejournal, and there still are. I needn’t say anything about Myspace and Facebook, which pretty much depend on young people wasting countless hours there.
Has the technology created some new threat that hadn’t existed previously? Of course not; it just brings an already terrible situation into sharp relief. Kids crave attention, especially from their peers. They have ways of going through life with blinders on, avoiding much of the world. Bauerlein is at his best when he rants about how it’s almost impossible to miss the news online – it is everywhere, the opportunities for learning and betterment are manifold – and yet we have large numbers of kids who can’t tell who fought who in the Second World War or name the Vice President.
I don’t know that the solution to this problem is going to involve kicking the kids off of the Internet. It seems like that would be great – it’s not like they’re deprived. But monitoring and controlling everything is just insanity, and what about those kids who can use the Internet well? Yeah, they exist. Some of the readers of this blog are younger and have put together amazing blogs or art portfolios online. They don’t deserve to be lumped in with every other idiot who can’t figure out that getting a passing grade is worth more than writing on everyone’s Facebook wall.
The solution has to involve getting better content their way, and fast. I dread the idea of watching every single thing a kid does. But at the same time, it’s not right to not suggest something like “hey, maybe you should try reading Arts and Letters Daily” when you can. Part of the reason people are into things like the Jonas Brothers is because there’s an enormous amount of resources put into creating a giant void of suck to bring them in. You and I both know the counter to that can’t be school. School can never make itself so appealing; real learning is pain. And that brings me to the larger point, which is what about all the adults online who are reading trash every single waking moment? To some degree, accepting what is mass-marketed and trumpeted as great by one’s peers is learned behavior.