June 6, 2013 “…Any personal items (including car keys, ids, cell phones) will be bagged and labeled with the student’s name. Digital cameras must NOT have transmission capability and will be left at coat check. Do NOT bring anything but the clothes on your back, your pockets should be empty. No water bottles, yearbooks, purses/ backpacks, money, iPods or iTouch, video recording cameras, or any devices that allow transmission of emails, texting or other data. All students will be subject to a search and pat-down procedure prior to boarding the buses. It is not a date event and NO guests are allowed.”
Wow. You thought the TSA was getting heavy handed…welcome to public high school media management in the 21st century.
Granted, “safe and sober” graduation and prom event lock downs are evidently quite common these days, but as one who grew up “free-range” I can’t help but hear prison door sound effects pound through my head with visions of Shawshank Redemption looping through my mental relay.
I picture the teens in single-file ponying up their phones, digital cams and wired gear like perps in a pat down, breaking into cold sweats as they release the grip from their tech tethers…From what I hear, that’s not so far off, give or take a twitch knowing they’ll have their devices back at 4am or whatever…
“Oh, they don’t tell us. We don’t know, nobody knows. You’re not allowed to know. Parents aren’t either.”
“Wait, whaaa?” I inquire with incredulity. “So you don’t know if you’re in San Francisco, or the East Bay or on the peninsula, or where the buses even take you?”
“Nope,” she shrugged it off, explaining the secretive bit stems more from school policy and practices than any big ‘surprise/excitement/reveal’ because evidently mobile media and mass-texting makes every event into ‘flash mob’ potential plundering security and making the venue susceptible to pre-planting contraband, stashing it for use later.
Given recent tragedies and media blitzes about bullying, rape culture, victim-blaming, and social media’s role in both fanning and tamping those flames given teens propensity to use mobile/social to connect, it’s understandable to see why schools are not messing around with any behavioral ‘surprises’ on their watch…
Still, it’s hard to see grad night and prom turned into a digital media frisk.
As I started to bristle at the civil rights and freedoms being trampled upon by media scrutiny and tight-lipped controls bordering on protectionism, my teen gave me some much needed perspective, jolting me into the reality of a 21st century digital kid,
“It’s no big deal, they’re keeping the lid on everything extra tight…after Newton, Boston, Sandy Hook, Columbine and all that, you can’t really blame them.”
That put me into a different head space very fast. Wow.
There was the obvious ‘aha’ bracer of how a digital childhood growing up in a ‘post 9-11 world’ of tighter security and flash mob mobile connectivity was markedly different than even the Millennial era of the pre-cellphone PAGER phenom right before it…
…The ‘yakking on the phone for hours’ Gen X and Boomer generation of peer connectivity seems almost like a quaint remnant of TV-land; much less the ‘meet me after school at the…’ (fill in the blank) type of face to face/word of mouth group gatherings of yesteryear.
More disturbing to me was my teen’s casual subtext referring to horrific crimes in “single-word sound bite” form, which rolled off her tongue as if it were an ingredient in the given mix of life…Newton. Columbine. Aurora. They’re no longer just places to this generation of teens, they are ‘happenings’…
This Forbes Gen Z: “Rebels With a Cause” article purports this may be the generation of “resiliency and realism” as teens adapt to media machinations, privacy limitations, and societal degradation with a surreal seamlessness…in most cases, far better than their parents. (at least THIS parent) What do you think of this, parents? Kids?
What’s your firsthand experience in urban, suburban and rural regions and how does it differ across the nation? We’re based in the SF Bay area/peninsula regions of Silicon Valley, is this a bubble of media exposure/experiences or is it universal adaptation to growing up in a different era, as the Forbes article implies?
This poignant kitchen note scrawled as a ‘just in case’ by my own daughter this year (after one of our local high schools had a ‘Facebook threat’ detected purporting a mass incident) gave me goosebumps.
Granted, mobile media and texting teens had already snapped screenshots of the the threats and sent it around via phones, amping the Facebook drama to epic ‘what ifs’ resulting in most of the student body staying home from school that day as authorities clamped down on social media streams using digital forensics in full tilt ‘better safe than sorry’ mode…but ‘what if’ we didn’t have that “Paul Revere” type of warning system flashing through circuitry in nanoseconds?
How has this changed societal stressors and mental health? Particularly when the CDC reports about 1 in 5 teens having mental health issues? Are kids just ‘adapting’ to new circumstances with aplomb or internalizing angst elsewhere?
It’s ‘mental health month’ and I’m hoping we all take a look at media’s pro and con impact while assessing these ‘surges’ being reported in…the media.
On my homefront, we’d had our umpteenth precautionary talk about NOT letting fear-based antics terrorize us into altering how we walk through the world.
I was rather proud that she’d refused to cower to media sensationalism, despite news reports and extra uniformed officers milling around and was headstrong about going to this school play in spite of the timing, as it said something strong about her character and her willful way of choosing to ‘filter’ media messages with critical thinking knowing full well ‘real life’ doesn’t necessarily mirror the reporting served into the mainstream daily. This is consistent with her similar decision to attend the Dark Knight/Batman premiere amidst the aftermath of the Colorado tragedy.
That said, these touchpoints of growing up in a media saturated era of “always on” connectivity made me think long and hard about the wild frontiers of parenting in this digital age, much less living as a teen today. Yes, these teens have the power of insta-communication with peers in their pocket 24/7, but those privileges have come with a cost of freedom too.
I asked teens from a different school what their ‘grad night’ entailed, and it was similar in ‘all nighter lock down mode’ on a boat on the S.F. Bay, which sounded really fun and festive, until she translated it into my focus of this article,
“Yah, it was great and no one got seasick, but you have to wonder how ANYone would want to be on a boat for six hours, my friends were falling asleep, and I think they just keep us out late to come home at 4am to make sure everyone’s too tired to throw any kind of “after party.”
Hmn. I see the point…logistics are becoming part of any mass ordeal these days to think through the safety factors, to preclude the ‘what ifs’ so in some ways teens are losing freedoms rather than gaining them when it comes to free agency and digital access en masse.
I’d love to hear from other ‘Class of 2013′ teens on this as well as the ‘graduating 8th grade’ age compression and ‘diva’ dynamics now dialing down to 5th grade bridging into middle school…And the preK to Kindergarten milestone has shifted from photo opp to ‘big kid’ status.
What have your experiences been parents? Young people? What role has media played in policy and practices, and how has this changed the landscape of childhood?
In this newly released 52pp Northwestern University study “Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology” it amazes me that media reports managed to summarize the findings of parents of kids ages 0-8, into a rather tweaked New York Times headline, “Most Parents Show Little Worry About Media Use, Survey Says.”
That paints with a ‘broad strokes’ brush on a misleading canvas…
It’s not that parents and kids are not ‘concerned’ or that there’s ‘very little conflict in families over media’ which is how some of this reporting is landing on the interwebs, it’s that media is now part and parcel of our everyday lives, and 0-8 is not the dominant ‘conflict’ zone.
The survey suggests the propensity of children ages 0-8 to mimic parents’ media habits, (versus clamoring for media themselves) which is no doubt all too true…but let’s look at that deeper…young kids mimic parents at that early age in ALL habits. Right?
To me, these ‘parenting digital’ conversations actually bode well for a parental sense of agency and indie control of family life cues to kids, implying that the ‘monkey see monkey do’ approach to the early years can shift context and balance with individualized choices…
Families that want more outdoor time and nature play can use media as simply a reinforcing agent for their messages to kids, or not at all. They can reframe ways to experience nature with ‘netiquette’ in a totally wired world, use media to reconnect families even deeper with nature including meaningful knowledge spheres or unplug altogether to experience the absence of media and tactile adventure of outdoor experiences unfettered.
My rub is that the new study is being given ‘the sound bite/infographic treatment’ without a whiff of a headline accurately pointing to media as a gamechanger in the OVERALL role of adolescence and growing up today.
This study is ages ZERO TO EIGHT, not meant to deal with the context of older teens churning in the sea of real life surges, surfing some stormy moments without navigation, like these various school media policies and society dealing with events en masse.
For media pundits and news reports churning headlines like “59% of Parents Don’t Worry if Their Kids Stare At Screens All Day” it not only misrepresents the solid research, giving it short shrift with misinformation on implications…It also misses the opportunity to frame critical thinking around how to a.) instill media mgmt early on, b.) open dialog early and often with media literacy and digital citizenship and c.) address media context and assumptions about “screen time.”
Saying “parental decisions are driving media use” is one thing, but pundits making sweeping implications that there’s ‘no conflict’ among families surrounding media use and implying parents are giving media a shoulder shrug is another…again, reminder, this study is 0-8! Media is a huge ‘change agent’ and influencer in adolescence…
It’s a great time to springboard conversations about the “three Cs” of screen time/media: context, content and the child but without acknowledging the mass impact of digital media’s role in policy, schools, society and new conundrums that come forth daily with older kids, the journalists generalizing headlines as no big deal to parents is simplistic. You can’t just scrape that off like gum on a shoe…parenting in the age of digital technology is a brave new world, and today’s ‘Class of 2013′ (and their parents!) are doing the best they can to adapt and assimilate to the nuance.
You’re forging forward as pioneers into a much different future, helping to make and manage new media roles and rules as they morph from devices to new and exciting digital fabrications we have yet to even comprehend in terms of implications as societal gamechangers…from tech sensors to 3D printing.
Viewing media context in macro versus micro, holistically vs slices of age groups and demographics is key to processing how successful we’ll all be handling these emerging changes.
As we look toward tomorrow, let’s keep an eye on what we’re gaining AND losing from freedoms to eco systems, in order to make sense of the interconnectedness of it all.
What are your media rules at schools for mass events these days? What about new ways of using media as graduates merge into the next sphere of life? (My own teen is already connecting with a potential roommate via an app that filters personality/lifestyle preferences in the dorm, all using mobile/social media)
I’d love to hear more about media’s role in your own graduations at every age and stage…Parents? What’s it like to be “parenting graduates in a digital age?”
Visual credits: Lead generic graphic, whs.tusd.org; social media job search/grad Daviscos.com