Tuesday, April 14, 2009

One More...

Okay, so this isn't exactly in the same category as the other two; it's not an "unsolicited advertisement" so much as it is "shameless self-promotion."

But I did say I would do it.

Last week, just before Easter, my second article for MercatorNet appeared. Unfortunately, it was published just before the Triduum, a time when many Catholics don't spend time on the Internet; so far a total of five people have commented on the article, which is a bit less than last time.

If you didn't get a chance to read it, I'd be most appreciative if you'd check it out and tell me what you think. For instance, I say:

Sometimes the problems are serious, too. Here in Texas this month a fourteen-year-old girl used a pair of scissors to stab another girl at school, over mean comments left on a MySpace page over spring break. Adults can get annoyed or angry enough with each other online--but adults tend to have a sense of proportion which teens and children lack. It may cause hurt, irritation, or even indifference when an adult finds out a Facebook or Twitter contact wants to be removed from his or her circle of friends or followers; it can be devastating beyond reason--literally--for a child or teenager to have this happen, especially if the “friend” is trying to be mean.

As a parent, and especially as a mom of young girls, I worry about many of the dangers our culture poses to our children’s innocence, self-esteem, and well-being. There are so many voices calling to them from the culture, presenting them with words and images that are hyper-sexualised, that reinforce standards and stereotypes that can shatter a girl’s image of herself, that fill their minds with consumer values and prey upon their real, normal needs in that insidious way we call “marketing.” With all of those voices already surrounding them, I think the last think they need are more voices reinforcing all of these things and exploiting their desire to communicate in a way that is “cool” and new--but potentially damaging.

Agree? Disagree? Stop by here, and leave a comment if you like!


Magister Christianus said...

Erin, I posted a comment on Mercator, but thought I would go ahead and cross-post here.

Erin, I couldn't agree more. I teach high school Latin in Indiana, and one of my students recently asked me if our 8 year old son and 4 year old daughter had electronic games. When I said no, I was surprised by the immediate chorus of teenage responses. "Good!" they said. They went on to talk about how jittery and stressed they feel when they spend too much time online. Teens know the truth that many adults ignore so that they can pipe money into the latest technology in an effort to salve their own consciences for the poor job they have done as parents and citizens in the rearing of children of this society.

Of course teens are self-focused. It is part of their developmental nature. It is, therefore, as it always has been, the responsibility of those who are older to guide them into a world beyond themselves. Never have we had greater communicative tools, and never have they been put to such narcissistic use. It is our job as parents and older members of society to guide children not only in the use of new technology, which at its best can allow them to connect deeply and broadly with the entire world, but to help them transcend their narrow, naturally self-centered selves by engaging the great works of literature, art, and music.

You should check out Proust And The Squid: The Science And Story Of The Reading Brain by Tufts neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf. She talks quite a bit about the challenges and even setbacks to the developing brain that is formed primarily through digitized reading. Now that we are 25-30 years into a world with personal computers in the home and the school, we have good data coming in on the effects of digital learning on children. A great book backed by exhaustive research is Mark Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation.

Anonymous said...

When I attended my all girls private Catholic high school run by the School Sisters of Notre Dame, we girls engaged in a lot of mean note writing during class. Sometimes the notes were confiscated by the teacher and read aloud. Other times they were deposited in the circular file so to speak. But the means of communication was there 20 odd years ago to break your heart, spirit and cause psychic damage. We all survived our teenage years.

I don't worry about all the electronic communication. When I first started working, everyone was all gaga about the fax machine. Now it's obsolete. So is the telephone in a lot of offices. Our children live in the electronic age and have all the challenges and advantages that go with that. When your daughters leave your house one day and get a job in the outside world, they will use all forms of electronic communication that you probably can't imagine right now. Should we limit the use of Facebook now? Sure, if you want. But Facebook will be far different in a few years than it is now. You can bet on that. But that kind of communication is not going away.