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Dealing With Tech-savvy Kids

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:58 PM
Tuesday, December 22, 2009

By Alvaro Castillo

You can’t beat them, so go on and join them. That’s among the primary messages of a new book by Cal State Dominguez Hills psychology professor Larry Rosen, who targets parents in his discussion of how and why the youngest generation likes to live largely online – and why adults should stop fighting it. “Me, MySpace and I: Parenting the Net Generation,” from publishers Palgrave Macmillan, was released last week.

After walking readers through the ongoing proliferation of technology and how today’s texting, instant-messaging, MySpacing, iPod-ing, gaming tweens and teens have become what he describes as “a generation that does not know how to unitask, that prefers multitasking to the nth degree,” Rosen advises parents, essentially, to get in where they fit in.

“It’s a different world now and parents have to get used to it,” the author said in an interview. “Kids’ social life is online now and you can’t take that away from them – you have to manage it.” The book offers parents a way to do just that with simple tips such as placing computers in a common area, setting limits for time spent online and using sites like MySpace and Facebook themselves to glean a clearer understanding of what kids experience.

Rather than lament the loss of those long-gone days when children spent their free time outside instead of on the computer, Rosen encourages parents to embrace the techie ways of the so-called millenial generation and the potential benefits therein.

“I’m of the opinion that this actually is an incredibly positive opportunity for kids because it gives them a forum for what they would normally do as adolescents – search for their personal identity,” said Rosen, who interviewed some 2,000 parents and children in researching the book.

“They can say things online they might not be able to say face to face and watch the reactions flow,” he continued. “They can try things out and if they get a bad reaction, erase what they said and start over.” By testing the waters in such a way – whether to ask someone out, express their opinions or even reveal their sexuality – Rosen argues that social networking in the virtual world can actually serve to improve kids’ experience and ability in the real thing.

“These kids have figured out a way to use technology to help them assess and establish their identities,” he said. “MySpace offers them a chance to practice life.” Throughout the book, Rosen also attempts to quell some of the fear that has sprung up around social networking – something he calls “moral panic” about such things as sexual predators and cyberbullying – and aims to spin in a more favorable light what’s become a pastime de rigeur for today’s teens.

“The bottom line, the whole focus of my book is, ‘Here’s the world your kids are in – welcome. Now let me talk to you about how to handle that,”‘ he said. “The most important revelation is how important your parenting style as to what your kid gets from being online … it impacts everything.”

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One Response to “Dealing With Tech-savvy Kids”

  1. Larry Rosen says:

    Thank you for the nice thoughts about my book. Interestingly, “Me, MySpace, and I” came out in December 2007. My next book, “Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn” is coming out in March 2010 and will take what I have learned about this new younger generation of elementary and secondary school students and explain to teachers why the old educational models won’t work with these kids and new, exciting ideas need to be used to motivate and engage them in education.

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