We read a lot of alarmist commentary about the dangers of the Internet for youngsters. How it puts kids at risk, erodes social skills, lays traps for the unwary and innocent, and contributes to the long slow spiral into illiteracy.
I’m the first to admit that there are risks involved with letting kids online. In raising two children, I’ve had to face and circumvent the pitfalls – strangers attempting contact, enticing popups, too-good-to-be-true downloads, casino-like games. I’ve had to aggressively impose safeguards for my own peace of mind.
Yet, from what I’ve seen, the educational benefits of online access are worth it. Yes, parents have to be vigilant. But the opportunities for communication and self-expression the Internet provides are bringing benefits to everyone – especially children.
Well halleluljia! It’s funny, but it strikes me how I constantly seem to be arguing for the Web in schools. Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think the Web is the most transformational technology out there? That it’s the most incredible resource of information? Why is it we’re constantly finding fault with it instead of developing ways to mitigate the bad stuff and take advantage of all the good it has to offer?
And I know I seem to discredit myspace.com and xanga blogs a lot, but the bottom line is the kids are writing.
To keep a blog going, you have to have the discipline to write daily. This puts today’s young bloggers on the fast track to future Pulitzers. To keep your friends coming back, you have to be interesting, funny, intelligent, relevant. These kids are all that and more. Once I got past the immature spelling and punctuation (along with usual teen slang and vulgarity), I was treated to some of the best poetry I’ve ever read. All of their blogs together are a veritable anthropological study of high school life. One senior I know has, in four years, transformed from what seemed like functional illiteracy – incomplete sentences, poor spelling – into a blossoming philosopher headed for a major university.
As Anne says, you don’t have to take every word of this one parent’s experiences to be gospel. But there are many important, educational benefits of the Web, and as educators, we need to get over our fears and deal with them head on. Articles like this only remind us how much our kids are missing when we don’t.