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Clarkson: Our kids and technology, some encouraging news

I try not to think about Xbox’s effect on my teenagers. While I am often in awe of my teens’ technological aptitude and eager ease with social media, I am also terrified by these skills and fear the worst.

Well, thank you Jack Myers and thank you Hinsdale High School District 86, the District 181 Foundation, the Hinsdale Central PTO and The Community House for bringing Myers in to speak last week on Hooked Up: Your Child and Technology—It’s Not All Bad!

No, in fact it is pretty encouraging according to Myers, who is an expert on media ecology — the study of media and technology’s effect on human perception and understanding — and the author of “Hooked Up,” which is subtitled: A new generation’s surprising take on sex, politics and saving the world. This book is about today’s teens, a generation who have never lived without the Internet or cellphones.

Myers calls those kids who were born between 1990 and 1996 Internet pioneers or the hooked up generation. They grew up watching Nickelodeon shows such as “Sponge Bob” and “Rug Rats.” We in the audience cringed to recall those days. But Myers pointed out Nickelodeon established a Declaration of Kids’ Rights in 1990. Among those rights (listed in “Hooked Up”) are: the right to be seen and heard and respected as a citizen of the world; the right to be treated with equality regardless of race, religion, sex, etc.; the right to make mistakes; the right to an education; the right to your opinions. These are just a few, and these are certainly some of the characteristics that our Internet pioneer teens carry out into the world today, according to Myers.

Economically, Internet pioneers do not expect to do as well as or better than their own parents, but they are not too concerned with that, Myers said. They have only known change, have experienced recession and war and uncertainty. They are interested in doing meaningful work and may become more interested in financial security as they get older and ready to marry — rites of passage that are likely still 10 years off.

According to Myers’ research, Internet pioneers belong to and identify with many different groups, making them multicultural, accepting of gender and race and sexual differences. They are all about collaboration and are globally focused. Internet-connected kids around the globe are “pretty much on the same page,” Myers said. “It’s the parents that are very different.”

And, as to the Xbox, Myers believes that the games and gaming systems our kids are using lead to a lot more than the manual dexterity of holding a controller.

“It’s teaching them to solve problems and find new path and routes,” he said.

Business, religious and education leaders find Internet pioneers’ social and communication skills impressive. They “appear to be the most sophisticated, well-rounded kids in terms of ability to communicate openly and honestly,” Myers said. And, Internet pioneers can be characterized by “a compulsion to be honest and truthful.” They know in the Internet age, there is little privacy.

Of course, the parents’ role is as important as ever with these future leaders of the 21st century. Visit www.jackmyers.com.

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