Blog: 12 “Growing Up Online Video” (2008) PBS FrontLine.com


http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/view/

This story was a little old, but still relevant to today’s world. Young teens are growing up  in the new “wild west” called the Internet. The Internet is a place where parents have little to no control and where some keep personal secrets while others become bullies and expose them. The story takes place in a small town in a small high school, where students live for Myspace, parents don’t have control, and where some teachers adapt while other do not. A teacher, older, who had been teaching for a long time, said that she has noticed that her students are unable to focused when they are away from technology, it’s very hard for students to ‘live’ with out technology. Another teacher adds that he knows his students are cheating and he finds this to be acceptable. In his class he has adapted to the use the computer and the Internet as tools for his students to keep them engaged in the class topics. He realizes that in this new age of technology students that don’t know the answers look them up, it’s the new way of learning and gathering more information about a subject.

Students gave their feed back about what they like about Myspace. Most said it was a way for them to become more connected with friends at school. Others said it was a game to see who could get the most friends the fastest. While others said was an escape to be someone else, and a hellhole for those that couldn’t get away from the abuse. Most of the ‘normal’ kids said they are addicted, they are online all the time, they post photos to get more commits, they would post commits on each other’s walls, that it was just fun to talk to people. Most seemed to understand “stranger danger” even though many parents still saw it as a threat. Surprisingly, studies show that, many young Myspace users and IMers know to block or delete people they don’t know that ask about personal information (like their address, or what they are wearing).

The Front Line story covered a sub-story about a young girl (she was 14yrs old at the time) who was seen as a freak at school, never fitting in, never accepted as who she was. She created a different personality for herself, she called her self Autumn Edows. She became famous through Myspace. She was free from all the insecurities and she finally fitted in to a world. The photos she has posted made her look like a porn start, in her underwear, and after the principle found out her mother made her delete every single things about Autumn Edows off her computer. She was nothing again.

Another story is a more popular one. It’s about Ryan Halligan, a young boy that sadly committed suicide because of the cyber bullying. According to Ryan’s friends he was bullied at school and teased online. In this new world of young people always having to be connected to the Internet, Ryan had no neither escape nor break from the abuse. He was open with his dad about the bulling in the lunchroom and even learned how to fight by this father, John Halligan. After Ryan’s unexpected death, John went online (logged in as his son) and tried to find out what happened. After getting bashed by many people who thought he was playing a disrespectful prank, John found that his son was being bullied online every day. It was the last straw for Ryan when he was heartbrokenly embarrassed when a girl he liked said she had a crush on him (online) and then at school she humiliated him by telling everyone it was a big joke and she didn’t like him at all. John and his family are still heartbroken over what happened to Ryan, but John has taken action and now is a traveling speaker at school across the country to open the eyes of students that cyber bullying is a real thing, it really hurts and if they speak up and tell an adult the bullies will find there are consequences for their actions.

 

Every single one of the stories shared in this Front Line story didn’t surprised me at all. I can understand a parent’s fear of not having control and not knowing what their child is doing on the Internet. It’s a different world for them, they grew up in a completely different world with strict discipline and always doing what they were told, and working hard for what they wanted. In today’s world children, teens, and young adults rule, in some since. They have more control over their social lives, they have more opportunities to learn in new ways and they have a free space to express their emotions as well was listen to others and connect to thousands.

 

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