by George Harris
I've been teaching kids how to produce media for nearly twenty years. It's been fascinating to ride and watch this media revolution. I'm continuously dumbstruck by its force.
Virtually every Canadian kid now has their own or has a friend with a handheld device that plays any piece of media ever produced. Your 12-year-old daughter is one click from the JFK assassination or a live event on the Cook Islands. Expect more. Another billion users will tune in this year.
This wasn't any sci-fi prediction. It seems obvious now, but for parents and corporations alike this came as a surprise – and at unprecedented speeds. The car took 50-years, the phone 35, the television 10. Your handheld took two. But the car/phone/tv never had the market dominance that iPhones and Androids do. Armed with this knowledge, corporations seduce us with their savvy.
The unwitting parents of this first generation of 24/7-connected kids are flying blind. None of my daughter's older siblings went through this and there's scant research to guide us. The two easiest responses are ignorance and prohibition. But many of us wish to explore the best ways to harness this influential medium. There are several intuitive ideas, but kids are human. We guide their driving to instill in them wheel responsibility. But most parents can't make an iPhone movie, or record a song for their channel. When we watch child-made or directed media, we often don't get it. My parents didn't get Hendrix.
Yet we can facilitate creative and responsible use through engagement. We've all looked at that grade 1 painting that our proud son brought home, maybe even hung it on the wall. I thought my son had zero artistic talent but I found myself talking to him excitedly about his paintings. They were magic moments for both of us. By taking a genuine interest in what their gadget shows and does – texting, composing, videoing, consulting (yes, my daughter asks it questions) – we can guide and connect with our kids on their terms. If you can't beat them, join them. When my daughter's skype icon lights up at recess, we exchange the heart icon. I hate those things but boy I love my hearts!
Home-grown media is galloping past TV shows in terms of influencing our youth and commanding their time. A schoolmate performing at the local talent show, or being bullied, often has more views than box-office smashes. We send our kids to workshops and camps for art, sports and music to foster interests that enhance their time's productivity. It's tempting to overlook these opportunities' practicality for a handheld. But many teens do or will spend more hours on these things than all else combined. If your child goes to school, or leaves their home, they will participate in this media phenomenon. Their potential to do so productively is confined by their capabilities. Thankfully, there are ample tools. There are free lessons all over the web (ie Vimeo), workshops at local community centers, specialized media camps, facebook groups, youtube videos, and on and on. We may be unable to instruct but we can support them nonetheless, and approach this technology whirlwind together.
I began teaching 19 years ago, the stone age. Computer editing was huge. I never could have predicted that an entire broadcasting company would soon exist in our palms, or that 11-year-olds and their parents would attend our youth/adult camps together. The vigour of this revolution is rivalled closely by the tremendous human creativity and power. It's inspiring and bewildering to witness.
Not even the sci-fi writers could have written this plot line!
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