Saturday, January 06, 2007

Violent and Viral Videos on the Web

Hi Folks,

I was on the Today show this morning for a short segment that was prompted by the accidental deaths of a 6 and a 9 year-old boy both of whom were imitating what they saw on the Saddam Hussein hanging on the web. The lengthy discussion I had with the producer the day before covered a lot of territory, but I knew that the segment would only be 5 minutes. The segment began with a news report that covered the hangings and the Jackass type viral videos that kids are imitating with sometimes tragic results. The segment did little more than raise a million question, a few of which I would like to pose here.

To my mind, kids who are doing what we are witnessing are in most cases just being kids. Kids do dumb things. I remember jumping off the roof with a sheet as a parachute, I was about 14, not 6 and I had done some pre-testing. I first made sure I could survive the jump without the parachute. OK, now that we have established the stupidity of youth, what impact is the web having on brining that stupidity to the forefront? Certainly, there was no web when I made my jump, but I got the idea from somewhere. If the web was there, would I have jumped from greater heights or would I have researched parachutes first and found the futility of my efforts before I put myself in danger. One could argue either way.

So what is the effect of viral and violent videos the proliferate on the web? Is it the availability that is the problem, is it something else, or a combination of factors? I feel it is definitely a combination of factors, but will hold off on elaborating except for one line of thought.

We all know about the technology gap that exists between adults and children, but we are not really that aware of the increased isolation between adults and children or the causes. That isolation began with the creation of public education. Prior to that, children were integrated into adult society at an early age. By the time they hit puberty, they were interacting regularly with adults who served as their role models and mentors. As soon as school came along, children were segregated from the adult world and peer influence was a much greater contributor to their behavior. It almost immediately gave rise to "coolness". As money found its way in the hands of the youth, Madison Ave. jumped on the cool factor and further defined the lines between youth and adult and in fact contributed to a "class structure" within the youth society.

As technology progressed TV became the next big isolating factor. We tend to think about families huddled around the TV in the 50's & 60's, but by the 70's TVs began appearing in kids' rooms and today 77% of them have TVs in their bedrooms. Add to that the isolation created by the technology gap, and compound it with computers moving into kids' rooms and we have problems. Oh let's not forget the increase in single parent homes and latch key kids.

So two immediate questions come to mind.

1) What if anything, can be done to reconnect kids with adults?
2) Considering that this isolation started with schools, what should the role of schools be?

I've sent this post to members of the WWWEdu mailing list (about 1800 educators around the world) and will write about their responses after they come in.


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posted by Art @ 12:14 PM   2 comments


At 1:37 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

The best way for adults and kids to "connect" is for them to spend lots of time together. Parents must take responsibility for this. They have to make sacfrices to do this, but it is well worth it. The schools can help, so can the churches, but having functions, but they are infrequent. As a parent you have your kids right there in the house with you. Turn off the TV and the computer and go for a long ride or walk and talk. Hang out. Do nothing. Take command. Don't be afraid of your kids. Keep trying. They will get it after a while.

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure how the death of the Pakistani child fits into your premise that there is a general disconnect between children and adults that may produce dire consequences. While I'm not familiar with the culture that the Pakistani child came from, I would guess that public school and television intrude far less on the family unit than here in the states.

I think it's easy to romanticize the golden ages of nuclear family connectedness, but the reality is that today's American families experience far lower rates of incest, sexual abuse, and domestic violence than in previous generations. I would personally rather face the problem of children experiencing violent tv images than witnessing real violence between family members.

None of this is to minimize the need for children and adults to connect, the need for adults to help children interpret the imagery of a turbulent world, and the need for ethical standards in broadcasting. But the old "things were so much better in yesteryear" saw is simply misleading - and propagandistic in ways that a media watchdog might normally criticize.


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