Friday, January 25, 2008

The Internet, Kids Today and Heath Ledger

This past Tuesday the PBS series Frontline broadcast a fascinating look at teenagers who have grown up with the Internet. The program focused on a small New Jersey town about an hour's train ride from Manhattan. It looked at a different families and shared stories about how being on-line 24 hours a day is shaping these kids' lives.

Among the things I learned is the following: Young people don't have the time to read. The go to and read that. My favorite quote, "If I had 27 hours in a day I would read the book, but I just don't have the time." As a result teachers teach with the understanding that the students aren't reading the text, just the sparknotes and teach to that. That's sad.

Other items of interest:

The reach of both My Space and Facebook. If a high schooler doesn't have a page on those sites they aren't anyone.

Cyber bulling. One boy was bullied via the internet and developed an on-line relationship with another boy who convinced him to kill himself. There is a website which teaches you how to hang yourself. Another website which helps you figure out the "coolest" way in which to kill yourself by giving you a questionnaire. Sort of the "Cosmo Quiz" for the suicidal. This 13-year old boy hung himself.

A group of high schoolers took a train into Manhattan and spent the night partying- and documenting it with their cell phone cameras. It wasn't long before their pictures of their night out was on the Internet and their parents found out. The kids weren't upset their parents learned about the partying- they were upset that the parents thought it was such a big deal.
(Note to self- make sure all pictures of me at the Kentucky Derby 1985-1987 have been destroyed.)

It was a fascinating program and very unironically you can watch the whole show on-line at

Also on Tuesday the actor Heath Ledger died. I was in class when the news broke, but my computer was on and I received an e-mail and a text message telling me the news. At the end of my class I was talking to a guest speaker who came to another class. I asked him how it went, he said fine, "But when news of Heath Ledger's death came on-line we had to stop and discuss it. I thought they were taking notes with their laptops not surfing the net."

Kids today.