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The Big Answer


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Totally Wired

a book by Anastasia Goodstein

(our site's book review)

The author says that: “most adults could still benefit from understanding how teens use this technology in their everyday lives. By learning about what teens are doing online and with technology, you will get to know the teens in your life better, can help keep them safe, and can celebrate the positive and creative aspects of what they do online.”

This book tries to inform all interested parties about teen use of technology. They not only consume content, they are what Alvin Toffler (in The Third Wave) would call prosumers (content creators): over half of teens have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations, etc.

She says that the media has become just as powerful and influential in teens' lives as their friends. Jim Taylor considers it an as assault on our kids and in Your Children Are Under Attack he gives parents guidance about how to deal with this situation. If parents have less time for guiding the moral development of their kids due to being at work so much, the media is happy to fill the void, and happiness, in this context, is all about making kids super-consumers, wanting and “needing” just about everything. End result: big corporations laughing all the way to the bank and kids developing some pretty unhealthy values in this super-consumer process.

Big corporations laugh all the way to the bank as kids develop unhealthy super-consumer values
Big corporations laugh all the way to the bank as kids develop unhealthy super-consumer values

One shouldn’t despair though—some aspects of this are good (besides the positive impact on our economy when kids super-consume). They're making lots of friends (shy kids are making friends, which they wouldn’t have done much of before the Internet), being creative, learning the new skill “multitasking,” and having a good time. Also, many teens who had thoughts and feelings that no one ever heard about before all this technology now express themselves often (which is healthy) online and their friends’ responses to their inner life helps them fine-tune their social skills. How “other-directed” (see Riesman’s The Lonely Crowd) this makes one depends on a myriad of factors. See also Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?.

Other-directed means directed in thought and action primarily by external norms rather than by one's own scale of values, and the more the media and peers influence one’s values, the more other-directed we become.

Goodstein says she finds it depressing when kids put pictures of themselves online in order to get validation from being admired. She thinks of this as “fake intimacy that they're not getting from their parents or from their friends.”

Unfortunately, the more the media and peers influence one’s values, the more other-directed we become, desperate for validation and admiration
Unfortunately, the more the media and peers influence one’s values, the more other-directed we become, desperate for validation and admiration

Since many kids blog to keep in touch with family and friends, it’s not inevitable that values they pick up will be negative. It depends on the family and friends, both of whom may or may not be nurturing, interested, involved, and helpful. Ideally, family and friends will warn them about not buying into media values! (This latter would not be the usual case, for most teens, however.)

Goodstein looks at demographics like young people usually waiting until their late twenties for marriage, or even remaining single and pursuing careers. She says that high school sweethearts no longer expect to marry like they used to. Teens often hang out with groups of friends, who occasionally become "friends with benefits." Kids often have no desire to “date” other kids from their school since that would result in messy drama. It’s easier to just hook up—which is usually just what it sounds like. Commitments are oftener between friends than between sexual partners.

Surveys are great marketing, sociological, and demographic research tools
Surveys are great marketing, sociological, and demographic research tools

The author has done surveys on websites. The results from one survey were that 1/6th of kids under 18 said they'd had sex or cybersex (either through chat or using webcams) with someone they'd met online.

1/6th of kids under 18 said they'd had sex or cybersex (either through chat or using webcams) with someone they'd met online
1/6th of kids under 18 said they'd had sex or cybersex (either through chat or using webcams) with someone they'd met online

She believes parents should talk to teens about how to be safe online and about what they're doing online—keeping the lines of communication open. She believes it is hopeless to try to keep a kid from finding things online you don’t want them to see. Instead: teach, educate, listen to feelings, get where they're at, and let them see how your concern is for their values and their safety. In fact, Goodstein reports that safety is really the number one reason parents purchase a cell phone—especially when a teen starts driving.

Safety is really the number one reason parents purchase a cell phone—especially when a teen starts driving
Safety is really the number one reason parents purchase a cell phone—especially when a teen starts driving

Her book has lots of good information and suggestions about what teens are up to online and with technology such as cell phones, although it avoids sticky issues like trying to prevent kids from becoming super-consumers with media-controlled values, many of which, although they have good economic consequences, are negative, anti-family, anti-parent, and teach superficiality and incivility and poor sexual attitudes.

Goodstein avoids sticky issues like trying to prevent kids from becoming super-consumers with media-controlled values
Goodstein avoids sticky issues like trying to prevent kids from becoming super-consumers with media-controlled values

In our opinion, a very nurturing environment with optimal parenting and lots of friends like an MC (microcommunity) will naturally take care of preventing young people from becoming other-directed rather than autonomous, and it will immunize them against the bad values implicit in the media onslaught. They will help others learn good values at a relatively early age rather than absorbing bad ones like vulnerable kids with poor social support networks. See Why Register for an MC? and check out The Forest Through The Trees.

Registering for MC search and match
Registering for MC search and match