Monday, November 24, 2008

Frontline: The Internet

The documentary by Frontline about computers and technology ratified the belief that kids are smarter than most of their parents and teachers when it comes to being technologically savvy. I have experienced this at Marist with some of my professors not knowing how to work the overheads or how to manage the volume on a computer monitor. This is also prevalent in my household with my mom who has her own laptop (courtesy of my dad) but she doesn’t know how to operate and therefore never uses it. My dad however, is very technologically able which has been passed on to my sister and I. One symptom of the Internet and personal computers is that teenagers in today’s society do not read books as much as their parent’s generation did. While I agree that this is a symptom of the internet, I also believe that Greg Bucotta, a student at Chatham High School is right in saying that teenagers have less and less time now a days. We are trying to complete so much in one day that we need another means of getting the information at a faster rate. As a result, we use spark notes in lieu of reading the book and complete our homework half an hour before it’s due. Greg attended a maritime academy in the fall of 2007 where he was prohibited from using a cell phones or a computer for the first two months. Greg’s parents believed that this was going to be hard for him, and they were probably right. Cell phones are everywhere nowadays which is astounding because two decades ago they didn’t exist and fifteen years ago they were the size of a household phone. Almost every adolescent has a cell phone in addition to an iPod. The down side of this is that even when you have a physical place that you interact with people you still have your cell phone or iPod with you. You are essentially always connected to some mode of technology. The phenomenon’s of My Space and Facebook have over one hundred million users combined. These entities provide a profile page about the user, exposes students to a wide array of personalities and networks, makes relationship status and pictures available that would probably not be considered ideal if their parents, teachers or employers were to see them. In addition, violent videos have been posted that create hype around student insubordination but can be beneficial by acting as proof of what happened and where the confrontation began. The Internet can ruin someone’s chances of getting into college or getting a job. The information that we all post on the web can be accessed by a wide range of people and has the potential to alter the path one intended for their lives. An example of this is the kids who take pictures of themselves with minimal clothing on or do things in pictures that once accessed can destroy a reputation. An example of this occurring was what happened to Jessica, a fourteen year old who reinvented herself as a gothic model online named Autemnedows after she was faced with a difficult childhood with few friends. She says that she was online all day
long. It was her world separate from reality that allowed her to escape to a realm where people thought she was beautiful and became well known. She experience people at school saying that her friends had seen her online and how breathtaking her pictures were. Unfortunately for Jessica, her principal found out about her alternate world and called her parents to inform them of the pictures that the felt were extremely provocative. Jessica’s parents decided to act by watching her delete all the photos she had on the computer, which was devastating for Jessica because to her, those pictures represented her and meant everything to who she was. Jessica’s parents over time allowed her to 
recreate her online profile and they began to realize that the internet is a tool that kids use to open up and invent themselves as someone. Another student, Sara described the internet as, “it’s something to do”. Sara feels that when she is online she is the real her. Sara uses the internet to stay in touch with friends through instant messaging as well as for school related purposed like most kids her age. What many people, including her parents don’t know is that Sara uses the internet to aid her anorexia. Sara looks for help and encouragement through the internet to maintain a thin physic. The idea of the “Ana Psalm” to me is horrifying. You’re placing your faith, almost like a religion, into something that is dangerous to yourself and your body. Another student, Ryan Halligan was being bullied at school so he sought out his father who taught him how to fight as a method of self-defense. As his training progressed, the bullying seemed to stop; but another unknown problem ensued… cyber bullying. Ryan had apparently made a friend online in junction with the internet to plan out his suicide. He used a website that helped him determine the “best” way for him to follow through with his intentions. The hardest thing his parents faced was Ryan’s suicide especially after things seemed to get better. After his death, his father had gone on his online account to learn what had happened by instant messaging his friends. He learned that Ryan was a victim of vicious attacks being called “gay” and a “loser”. A girl from his class would play games with boys online by flirting with them and then later telling them it was a joke. Ryan was one of these boys. “The internet is always a willing listener” said Parry Aftab who talks about the appeal of the internet. She also verbalized the idea that once you hear words over and over again you being to believe them, which may have been a cause in Ryan’s suicide. Ryan and Sara both used the internet to learn how to supports their choices and needs. Ryan’s dad believed that the computer and the internet helped to amplify the pain and suffering that teenagers face. Ettam Skinner, a mother of four, is what she would consider a cautious parent 
but her children would deem her as overbearing. She has located the only household computer in the kitchen so that she can keep an eye on what her children do or watch while on the internet. Ettam’s involvement in her children’s lives has driven her children away from the relationship they once shared. Many parents are blaming themselves for giving their children a computer to put in their room, which is a legitimate concern but some kids abilities to make judgements may be underestimated. Many kids are not looking for trouble and know how to avoid unwanted solicitations. While kids may engage in a lot of risky behavior online, the riskiest of behavior happens in person. Being online can only go so far, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t find a happy medium of security. It just cannot constrain the freedoms of today’s youth to the point where they are shut off from their families and all communication is lost except for online.

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