Children and Technology

For a book written in 1977, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game has remained astoundingly relevant. While this wasn’t my first time reading the book (it was assigned reading my freshman year of high school) I can definitely say that the issues it raised were more clear to me reading it again seven years later.

wraltechwire.com

wraltechwire.com

Many of the issues Card touches on went right over my 14-year-old head: manipulation of children through technology, mass genocide of an entire species, the underlying tension regarding the Cold War, just to name a few. This isn’t to say that any of those ideas are relevant to today’s society, but I think one could make the argument we are approaching the first. Many studies have been conducted on the effects technology has on children, though no definitive evidence has suggested that technology is harmful to children (Plowman, McPake, and Stephen, 2008). However, it is clear that technology provides a different method of “playtime” for children. While many children, as Plowman, McPake, and Stephen suggest, combine multimedia technologies with more traditional toys, this is becoming the anomaly particularly in the U.S. I can say from personal experience that is is becoming more and more difficult to find a child who doesn’t know how to work an iPad or computer than one who doesn’t.

In Ender’s Game, children were taught military tactics and constantly manipulated through video-game like simulations that were adaptable to the mind of the child controlling them. While I am not suggesting that children are being manipulated in this way today, some of the technologies we have do adapt to the person using them. As more and more children grow up using these technologies everyday from a very young age, it is possible that concepts like the ones in Ender’s Game will become things of the present as opposed to predictions of the future.

Maybe it’s the fact that this class has taught me to be more skeptical of technology and to be more mindful of my media use, but the children of Ender’s Game are not the type of children I want to see in this world. For a book written almost 40 years ago, Ender’s Game touches on some very important ethical and technological issues that are still pertinent today, especially since Ender’s Game has long been positioned as a young adult book. Are children destined to become six-year-olds with 30-year-old minds just because they use technology? I certainly hope not.

Works Cited:

Plowman, Lydia, Joanna McPake, and Christine Stephen (2008). “The Technologization of Childhood? Young Children and Technology in the Home.” Children and Society 24. 63-74.

The Bird is the Word?

Post preface: For the next few months, Books, Birdies, and Earl Grey will be doubling as a “learning blog” for one of my media classes. Most of my blogs will stick to book discussion, but may be more scholarly in nature.

I recently had to do a group project where we discussed a current event or issue related to the media. My group decided to discuss how Twitter is not only becoming an increasingly popular news source for adults 18-29 (Kerr, 2013; “Why,” 2013), but also how more mainstream news sources (Like CNN, USA Today, and FOX news) are starting to use Twitter as a starting point for finding breaking news stories.

As this video from the Wall Street Journal shows. This is exactly what Twitter wants to accomplish–especially among young, educated, higher income people.

My group compared journalists using Twitter to get breaking news to college students using Wikipedia to start their research. One thing we found, however, was that college students never cite Wikipedia (or even admit to using it) but mainstream news sources are not afraid to claim they got their information from Twitter. While my group saw this as a problem, we were somewhat surprised to discover that not many of our classmates did. Many of them considered news sources smart to use Twitter this way because it could lead to faster and (sometimes) more reliable news because live tweets of an event could be considered eye witness accounts, as was the case with the Boston Marathon Bombings.

I was also taken aback by the demographics of people who get the majority of their news from Twitter. I had always assumed that higher income, educated people would get their news from more reputable sources (like actual newspapers or various news channels). When I discovered that this was not the case, I was surprised.This made me ask the question: Are news sources increasingly using Twitter as a starting point because more young people are looking to Twitter for news, or are young people looking to Twitter for news because that is where news sources are getting their information?

While this question cannot be answered without research and analysis, this group project certainly introduced me to the more productive ways Twitter is being used. I don’t have a Twitter, but this issue definitely made me consider getting one.

Sources:

Kerr, D. (2013). “Twitter a News Source? Not So Much.” in CNet. Retrieved from: http://www.cnet.com/news/twitter-a-news-source-not-so-much/

“Why Twitter Wants to Be your News Source,” in Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SliQCwBzGNc