Online Environments and Young Children: The Importance of Teaching Responsible Use

I came across an interesting article the other day about a study done by Warren Buckleitner, Ph. D. from the Mediatech Foundation for Consumer Reports Webwatch. The study was about how young children (ages 2-8) interact with online environments. I thought the findings were interesting but what I found even more interesting, and quite disturbing, was the focus of commerce aimed at this age group. It's not really a surprise to me. I see it all of the time on TV and on the web, but it reminds me to think of how important it is to teach responsible use for a variety of reasons.

An excerpt from the executive summary reads:

"We discovered that the digital world offers a wealth of opportunity for young children to play and learn. But even in this small sample of 10 families we found–too easily, in several circumstances–repeated examples of attempts to manipulate children for the sake of commerce."

"Like taking candy from a baby" as this study is appropriately titled.

Many of the thoughts that come to our minds when we think about responsible use have to do with protecting our children from online predators, or bullying, etc. Don't get me wrong, these are extremely important topics to discuss with our children and we should continue to address them. However, It might be easier for a child to identify and filter out an attempt by an online predator or bully than it would be for them to resist an enticing option or threat that their online creation (on sites like Webkins or Club Penguin) would become inaccessible unless a purchase was made. This goes beyond the realm of responsible use of technology and becomes a question of how we can help them become a better more selective consumer of media and information in general, and in all aspects of life for that matter.

Well before I get to carried away here... Let us also remember what our children can gain from their responsible online or digital experiences.

The video logs of the study can be found here, and again, the study PDF can be found here.

As always, we encourage you to comment, and we hope you found this to be informative and thought provoking.

See you next time! :)

1 comment:

Pat said...

I went with my daughter to the Mac store at Tysons yesterday to pick up her computer – it was being serviced. The store was absolutely packed – my guess would be the mean age at 24. She wanted me to see something at the back of the store. An interactive children’s station is set up, with about six computers and of course, all seats were taken with children waiting to play the games that were available to them (don’t know if software or site-based). What she also wanted me to see were two children, who were definitely under two, using the mouse and playing the games (or trying to). The parents were standing a bit from their kids watching. The two children were completely engrossed in what they were doing – this was the first time I had seen children this young on a computer “live.”

The marketing aspects you spoke about in the posting and the real danger of this type of “bullying” geared towards very young children really scares me. We certainly begin talking about educated consumerism with our students at BVR but I truly think it will need to be a greater focus in the near future, perhaps even now.