Guest blog: "Our children are growing up online - is it changing who they'll become?"
A new film by Beeban Kidron explores our children’s relationship with the internet. InRealLife asks what it really means to be a child who is always 'on' and never alone - increasingly bombarded by a world that usually has something to sell you, and appears to know you better than you know yourself? Are we outsourcing our kids to the net?
In today's guest blog, Beeban (who previously directed Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar) explains why she decided to make the film.
Do you worry that children are ill-equipped to negotiate the opportunities and risks of the internet? Tell us what you think on the thread below.
Posted on: Tue 17-Sep-13 10:28:50
(13 comments )
The impulse for making InRealLife was personal. I was worried my kids were on computers and phones too much of the time. I felt they were distracted; I realized that there was a whole world of communication that I didnt truly understand, and within it a whole series of things that they are witnessing without the context of adult conversation.
Top of the list for many parents is the worry about the effects of pornography on the young. At the start of the film I sit in a room with a young boy who enthusiastically shows me 32 channels of aberrant sex available at the click of a button. When allowed the time to reflect, he says porn has made it impossible to have relationships with real girls.
One of the questions the film asks is whether we have unwittingly outsourced sexual and emotional education to pornographers. But if freely available pornography is a game changer in terms of adolescents growing into young adults it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mumsnetters know that the Internet has a great deal to offer, sharing as they do a space that has become such a powerful source of original voices - only a fool would want to go back to smoke signals and horse-drawn post. InRealLIfe does acknowledge some of the Internets wonder - but its central preoccupation was to find out what being in contact 24/7 means to young people who have never known anything else.
If you get your smart phone at 11 when you go to big school, if at 14 your Facebook page is jumping with all its news and alerts, if you play video games instead of playing out, if posting sexy pictures gets you more likes, if popularity becomes measured by having friends in multiples of hundreds, if you believe pornography teaches you how to have sex, if a small disagreement at school can escalate relentless and unstoppable through the night so you feel unable to face the next day, if the stream of other peoples happy photographs reveal no ambivalence, while you struggle with your French homework and your waistline& does it change who you become?
Our kids are becoming acclimatised to a world in which they are being ‘rewarded' to play one more game, listen to one last song, send yet another message or tweet another comment.
What shocked me the most, was discovering that the major players on the Internet deliberately and wittingly design to addict. That an unholy alliance of data collection, personalised advertising and the ubiquitous use of reward mechanisms was not metaphorically but actually - turning a whole generation into lab rats.
The human brain releases the chemical dopamine every time it senses something new. Our children have their music, their phone book, their diary, their games, their social interactions, their photo album, their scrapbook - even their school work - in places that are deliberately arranged to make money out of their evolutionary necessity to respond: to a buzz, alert, beep...
Whilst the Twittersphere is alive with issues at the fringes of the Internet we still fail to fully grasp that our kids are becoming acclimatised to a world in which they are being rewarded to play one more game, listen to one last song, send yet another message or tweet another comment. That the data they create is used to sell them, or their friends ideas, goods and activities. And that the dopamine-induced urge to look at their phone is as great as the urge for a cigarette, a drink or a chocolate; so great, in fact, that in the UK we do it on average 150-200 times a day.
Emerging research shows that the young can read fewer words without feeling the need to click, that teenagers report being overwhelmed by the demand to respond to their peers immediately, that playground accidents are on the rise as parents have their eyes on their phones not their children. The unhappy spectre of the restless being parented by the distracted is not what the inventors of the Internet envisaged.
While the big players on the net are choosing to set their algorithms in intrusive and addictive ways for the sole benefit of their bottom line, while they take no responsibility for safety or content, while there is no alternative to giving your intimate data in return for services - then the collateral damage might just be our children.
The film is neither prurient nor sensational, but it does deal with pornography, sexual exploitation and bullying so not for the fainthearted. It moves on to gaming, meeting people on line, and some much broader worries about commercialization of the net, and the interruption driven culture that our kids are growing up in. I do hope that at least some parents will put down their own Blackberrys, and take their teenagers (15+) to the cinema.
InRealLife opens in cinemas on 20 September with a nationwide screening and live satellite Q&A with Jon Snow, Beeban Kidron and special guests at 1pm on Sunday 22 September.
By Beeban Kidron
Ooh yes. A must see. Will try to persuade 16YO DD who spends far too much time on her phone to see it with me.
I went to see a preview of InRealLife last Friday through Mumsnet Bloggers Network, met Beeban Kidron & wrote about it here:
I have said to my dp and friends that the impact of the internet is quite scary.I mean it's amazing but the access our children have to media and information and advertising etc is far greater than any generation previously and I do worry about the impact.
Lwith four boys, porn especially! We have been quite strict with internet controls and access etc and we monitor what they look at etc.
Def shall try and see this.
Every generation has something the generation before didn't have. We had television. Our children have the internet.
Who knows what their children will have?
Yes, the porn is scary. But not as scary, IMHO, as the parents who know nothing about how things like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr etc work.
Want to protect your children? Educate yourself.
Yes I would like to see this film.
I struggle with some of these issues with my middle son. He is obsessed by computers - and I can see the good. At 11 he can code, he can program, but he's also online all the time. Luckily he loves groups and classes (RL ones) and has a gift for performance so I send him out to groups and to auditions & he ends up getting jobs & and he has that other side. But free time drifts back to the internet. And he's happy enough talking to people online and not in RL. But then I'm sort of the same.....
The porn I don't worry about (yet). He is young enough for me to insist on free access to everything he visits (and he has been impressed by my ability to use google to find out what is going on - I pointed out I have been online since 1994). And he does show me when dodgy stuff appears. Being computer literate myself, being active online myself, it's a shared activity in some ways and he seems comfortable talking about it to me (more so that Luddite dh).
I don't know about his attention span. Boys seems to lack attention spans anyway.
I won't take ds2, but I would like to see this. I have many half formed opinions but often feel on uneven ground in this area - where I'm not sure what I think, or what I should be thinking.
My husbands blog, deals with exactly this, and advice to parents on how to be computer savvy. Techsavvykids.com
Oops that should be techsavvykids.co.uk please delete this if I'm not supposed to post this!
Exactly what Tee said.
We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility when we have the capacity to learn.
I went to the preview screening last week and interviewed Beeban earlier this week. It's a fascinating film with so much food for thought.
I also blogged about it here: http://chocolateisnottheonlyfruit.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/in-real-life-movie-you-have-to-watch.html?spref=tw
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