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Don’t fret guys: It’s OK for Mommy to be online this much

Submitted by on Thursday, 20 November 2008 No Comment

I used to fret that I was born too late and missed all the cain-raising fun of the 1960s. OK, so I didn’t exactly miss it, but it’s hard to burn your bra when you weren’t even old enough to own one when this was allegedly going on.

These days, I’m convinced I was born too soon. I was in my late 30s before coffee drinking became cool, for Peet’s sake. I wasn’t much younger than that when Al Gore invented the Internet.

Which is why the MacArthur Foundation’s new study ““Living and Learning With New Media” absolutely slays me.

The gist of it: It’s OK if your teen is online a lot, Mom and Dad. It’s not just random typing — they’re actually learning. And it’s not making them Twinkie-dependent dweebs hiding from life — there’s a lot of socializing online, much of it stemming from face-to-face friendships.

Um, in other words, don’t worry, guys. Your mom’s not turning into a wired weirdo because she spends as much time tweeting with friends as she does talking to them.

I’m stifling full-on belly laughs, though, because some parents need to hear what the study shows.

I know folks who constantly harangue their kid for the time she spends redesigning her MySpace page. Though I consider “MySpace design” an oxymoron, the girl’s still a straight A student. I know others who have banned MySpace for kids even in their late teens.

The guys are taking baby steps toward wired. Big Guy loves YouTube — supervised only — and Little Guy’s a fan of Noggin and Sesame Street sites. They’re both crazy about Reader Rabbit and Big Guy will concentrate on it for far longer than he will a list of vocabulary words. But they’re still going to read books, dang it.

They love playing with my electronic toys — digital still and video cameras, digital recorder — and they’re so used to TweetDeck beeping in they don’t hear it anymore. I do, though. I start slobbering like Pavlov’s dogs.

I do limit their screen time, because at ages 3 and 5 there’s a lot of nonscreen world they need to explore.

Mostly, though, I’m insanely jealous of the electronic era that will be theirs to explore. A world no one had even dreamed of when I was their age.

Hence the reassuring “the kids are going to be all right” tone to the MacArthur report.

“We are wary of claims that a digital generation is overthrowing culture and knowledge as we know it …”

Since when is culture static? Its roots are in a Latin word meaning “to cultivate” — which in turn means “to foster the growth of.” Go ahead, guys, grow your own. Um, culture, that is. I’ll still be closely examining any plants in your bedrooms.

Seriously. It’s all yours. You couldn’t possibly screw things up as badly as the current mess my generation is saddling you with.

“… and that its members are engaging in new media in ways radically different from those of older generations.”

That’s like saying I grew up watching more television than my mom did. Of course I did. There were only a few thousand sets in the country when my mom was 6.

“Some argue that new media empower youth to challenge the social norms and educational agendas of their elders in unique ways.”

Go for it, guys. Question every last assumption, idea I throw at you. We’ll all be stronger for it. Big Guy, you’d pretty much mastered this by the time you were 2 anyway. Just eat your veggies once in a while.

“Our values and norms in education, literacy, and public participation are being challenged by a shifting landscape of media and communications in which youth are central actors.”

Challenge away because, guys, I have to tell your mom’s generation did a pretty poor job on all counts. Illiteracy remains a problem that just doesn’t get solved, and, recent election excluded, more people would rather sit on their cans and crab that get up and register to vote.

Until you’re ready to full take the cyber reins, though, just know that it’s OK if I spend a lot of time online. There’s a study now that says so.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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