The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

It Takes a Digital Village

Dr Shirley Dent

As an Associate Fellow of the Institute of IdeasDr Shirley Dent produced the session Out of the Mouths of Babes at this year’s Children’s Media Conference.  Marc Goodchild represented the CMF on the panel.  In a follow-up report, Shirley Dent looks at the bigger picture surrounding kids’ social and digital media.

Hannie Kirkham, CMF Newsletter Editor, digests…

Social media is here to stay for young people – an indispensable, inescapable part of growing up. Findings from the Forrester survey of US 12-17 year olds indicates that three quarters of their young respondents use Facebook. Half reported they are using it more than they did a year ago.Young kids also have access to online communities where they can digitally engage with each other and their own creativity, such as Mind Candy’s Popjam (launched at the CMC) and Disney’s Club Penguin. Such platforms are giving children even more space for creative expression and social connection, so, Shirley asks, what’s not to like?

For all the benefits, there are plenty of negatives, cyber bullying being at the forefront in recent months. The session, Out of the Mouths of Babes: Free Expression, Children and 21st Century Media, discussed how to combat these undesirable and sometimes harmful effects.  Is rigorous moderation, or regulation, the answer? Where does this leave children who want to – in creative, fun and educational ways – interactively engage those online communities from ever younger ages? The answer is by no means straightforward. Arguments about free speech and free expression of adults are not necessarily appropriate when we consider free speech and expression of and to children.

What is really important is that as a society we help young people find their own way through social media.  Society has to help children navigate the digital world, in the same (or at least similar) ways to growing up in the classroom. In order to do that, the trust relationship between children and adults needs fortifying. Adults need to trust children. The good stuff that comes from playtime far outweighs the bad, both off- and on-line.

Likewise, adults need to trust themselves and other adults to be a part of their kids’ digital lives. Adults need to be confident in their ability and authority to direct children about what is right and wrong online as well as generally in life. The CMC session brought home the fact that this has to be done within a wider community, at the societal level. It takes a village to raise a child, and today’s village is very much online.

For Shirley’s full article, visit the CMC website.

The Institute of Ideas will be opening up this discussion again at their Battle of Ideas event on October 18th, at the Barbican Centre in London.  The Battle of Ideas is two days of high-level, thought-provoking, public debate on a vast range of contemporary topics.  

The session: “Forever friends? Negotiating Online Relationships” will once again consider kids, young people, social media, rights and responsibilities – and is supported by the CMF and the Children’s Media Conference. Speakers will include: Reg Bailey Chief Executive, Mothers’ Union & Independent Reviewer for Government on the commercialisation & sexualisation of Childhood; Daniel Lloyd Head of Consumer Law, BT; and Simon Milner Policy Director, UK, Middle East and Africa, Facebook & board member, UK Council for Child Internet Safety.  CMF will once again be represented on the panel by Marc Goodchild.

To book tickets for the event visit the Battle of Ideas website where the full programme for the 18th & 19th October is available.

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