This is a review of the report, “Meeting of Minds: Cross-Generational Dialogue on the Ethics of Digital Life.” The report is the result of a 3-week online conversation conducted with 250 parents and teens about how they view contemporary issues of digital media. Global Kids, Inc, The GoodPlay Project, and Common Sense Media collaborated on this project. I was able to meet and hear about this report from several of the report’s authors at the recent Digital Media & Learning Conference.
The report outlines five areas of interest that are suggestive of how adults and teens view online issues differently:
4. authorship and ownership
In general, the report’s authors find that teens tend to approach ethical issues related to these areas in terms of individual concerns. They think about how it will affect them personally, not how something might affect someone else. So not surprisingly, they emphasize the freedoms they feel they have a right to, rather a sense of responsibility they might have to protect the rights of others.
Here are just a few examples that come from the report:
Teen voice: “People are different online because they want to be. Why continue to be yourself when you can turn yourself into somebody you would rather be? It’s like how everybody always chooses the prettiest or best picture of themselves to put as their profile pic. We don’t have to be ourselves online; we have the freedom to be who we want others to believe we are.”
Adult voice: “I think it’s important that people be themselves all the time, everywhere. It doesn’t benefit anyone to try to be something or someone you’re not.”
Teen voice: “I don’t see the public space as scary, I see it as an opportunity. You have access to millions of people. It’s only scary if you don’t know what you’re doing, and once you realize exactly the scope of a web site, it’s easy to use it properly for the best effect with minimal risk.”
Adult voice: “I think one of the hardest things about this generationally is a completely different sense of privacy. To me, privacy means not wanting anyone else except those FEW with whom I decide to share, to know. Putting it online has no guarantees/no personal control. You have no idea what gets back to anyone or who will see it. To me that’s not private, it’s extremely public. I find that lack of personal control and not knowing a bit scary.”
The full report’s available at Global Kids, Inc.. These are just a few of the examples of how teens and parents see things differently – but I believe these differences are often at the root of family tensions, and also are the root of necessary conversations that parents need to be having with their teens today.
The challenge lies in how we have these conversations. We need to find ways to express our interest in teens’ perspectives while also expressing what we expect of them as people who are respectful not just of their own rights, but of the rights of others, as well. I think we do this best when we can resist lecturing, scolding, yelling, or punishing. Some parents have figured out ways to speak from a place that recognizes and encourages our teens’ best selves. That, it’s my hope, is something they’ll hear, even if we don’t think they’re listening.