In 2014, the National Sleep Foundation found that most 15-to-17-year-olds routinely get seven hours or fewer hours of sleep, which is a good two hours less sleep than they need for a healthy life. The foundation also found that sleep quality was better among children who turned their digital devices off before bedtime than those who took their devices to bed. It would thus seem that there is a connection between screen time and sleep. Is this connection somatic (purely physical), psychosomatic (caused by the mind), or just mass hysteria brought about by digital ubiquity?
At a very basic level, time on a gadget during bedtime is time not spent in sleep. 6–10 year old children with three technology types in their bedroom achieved 45 min less sleep than those without. It is only logical to believe that older children, with their more active social life, would spend more time on gadgets than the surveyed pre-tweens. Delayed bedtime or truncated total sleep time caused by “time displacement” by technology and media items in an adolescent's bedroom has been reported to result in sleep deprivation, sleep-onset latency (SOL), sleep difficulties, night-time awakenings, and parasomnias.
Time displacement is augmented by biochemical effects of screen time as well. Adolescence is already associated with circadian (sleep) phase alterations, which along with social demands (early school timings etc.), can cause sleep deprivation. It is well-known that light also affects the circadian rhythm. Light suppresses melatonin, the sleep-promoting hormone, and recent studies have found that backlight from gadgets (particularly tablets set to full brightness) can cause statistically significant melatonin suppression after just two hours of exposure. The dose, exposure duration, timing and wavelength of light play important roles in sleep patterns. Suppression of melatonin secretion and alterations of sleep rhythms are more sensitive to short-wavelength light (blue) than mid- (green) or long-wavelength (red) light especially at lower brightness of 30-50 lux at which gadgets typically work. The backlight of most gadgets is of blue or near-blue base, which, at the intensity levels of as low as 30 lux, can disrupt melatonin within a week.
Longer screen times can also lead to eating disorders and higher calorie intake. Longer media hours have been found to be associated with consumption of more soft drinks and junk food. There is also strong evidence for a direct connection between screen-based sedentary behavior and weight, particularly when screen time exceeds 2 hours. How is this related to sleep? A 20-year review of obesity-associated diseases among children aged 6 to 17 conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that obesity in children is a reason for increased incidence of sleep apnea that leads to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation in turn leads to more obesity in a vicious cycle that can effectively be traced back to extensive media use.
The psychological and physiological unrest caused by media and social interaction may also interfere with the ability to fall and stay asleep. Technostress and ICT or information and communication technology stress, the state of mental and physiological arousal observed in persons who are heavily dependent on computers, gadgets and e-games, are now pervasive maladies. Studies have shown that the stress due to excessive technology use is related to sleep disturbances. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg studied the habits of more than 4,100 Swedish men and women, aged between 20 and 24, and found that those who constantly use a computer or their mobile phone can develop stress, sleeping disorders and depression. Sleeping disorders and depression are connected by a common chemical – melatonin and we already know that blue light of the screen can disrupt melatonin in the body, leading not only to sleep deprivation, but also depression. Like obesity and sleep deficit, depression and sleep problems form a vicious cycle, one feeding the other in a downward spiral.
No correlation study can be complete without awareness of possible pitfalls of association. For example, the observed connection between sleep deprivation and technology use may not point to a causal impact of screen time on sleep outcomes. There is a high possibility that the reverse is true because youth who need less sleep or have sleeping disorders may spend more time with technology, either as a coping mechanism or just to pass time. Another possible source of error in such correlation studies is that they are largely based on self-reported or parental reported data of screen exposure and the outcome variables. Such reports could be highly opinionated and are often not validated against an objective standard. Teenagers, for example, can overestimate or underestimate their total sleep time/problems vis-a-vis screen time due to ignorance, peer pressure and even denial. Measurement errors and inconsistencies could also lead to faulty associations.
Like breathing, eating and drinking, sleeping is a life-sustaining activity, and anything that adversely affects it must be dealt with before damage becomes irreversible. However, it is regressive to believe that technology itself must be ousted because of sleep problems, much like advocating that breathing is dangerous because of air pollution. Logical moderation is the key to living. There is clearly a dose-response relationship between screen time and sleep and a threshold for screen-based recreation. For example, the risk of sleep problems was found to increase two-fold in adolescent girls engaging in screen-based activities for 4 or more hours per day. So, is four hours the magic number? Can the limit be generalized for an entire population? Obviously not. The threshold must eventually be set by every individual based on their own nature and needs.
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The advent of the digital native has in turn given rise to the digital parent. The digital parent is one who uses one or more of digital media applications/devices in his/her daily activities, particularly parenting. Digital parents play a key role in shaping how their children use the digital media; the parent being perhaps the first and most important mediator of digital use of children.
A digital parent typically follows one of three mediation styles with regard to their children’s digital usage - restrictive mediation that involves rules and prohibitions to content, instructive mediation, in which the parent advises and instructs on what to and what not to watch and coviewing, in which the digital media is experienced together, often perceived by older children as helicopter parenting. According to a nationwide survey conducted in 2006, 59% of parents used some form of mediation strategy, of which, 7% allowed unlimited media use and engaged in no mediation. 11% of parents used instructive mediation, especially with younger children and 23% used restrictive mediation.
The mediatory role of the digital parent is decided by various factors – practicalities of inclusion of digital technology, such as affordability, and knowledge of benefits and pitfalls of technology. But perhaps equally important is the nature of the parent-child relationship. Family interactions and family environment are important in that as the amount of time young people spend alone with digital media increases with a decrease in the availability of parents for interaction. With life in developed societies becoming busier than ever, “quality time” between parents and children has become premium, thereby introducing the role of parent as participant in co-learning with children; co-learning is particularly relevant with respect to the digital media in that it is more natural to the digital native child than the immigrant parent.
Thus, digital applications such as emails, instant messaging, sms, wikis, social network sites, and other online immersive experiences have emerged as a platform for better interactions between parents and children. However, it should not be forgotten that technology can lead to “co-presence” in which people are paying more attention to the people on the other end of the cell phone conversation (or instant messaging, or social networking) than to those in the same room. Co-presence, ironically, is a problem seen not only among children, but among parents too.
Parental responses to a child’s questions and activities significantly influence the patterns of attachment that will guide the child’s perceptions, emotions, thoughts and expectations in the use of the digital media. Indeed, studies have shown the importance of family interactions during early adolescence as predictors of future online socializing behavior of youth.
The style of mediation differs with the gender, educational level and age of the parent and the child. For example, research has shown that boys and young adolescents are controlled more than girls and older adolescents in terms of gaming. However, another study showed that in terms of general internet use, parental mediation was more often directed towards younger children and girls than towards older children and boys. Mothers have been found to mediate their children more often in their media use
Education level has a significant influence on mediation styles as well in that lower educated parents set more content restrictions on the child’s Internet use. Furthermore, parents with more computer or Internet skills are more aware of safety issues of the digital media and often install apps for security and protection on the computer and other gadgets to ensure the safety of their wards. The perceived need for parental mediation also decreases with increasing age of the children; parents of older children are likely to report less engagement in parental mediation strategies than parents of younger children.
The familiarity of the parent with digital tools is also propelling greater interest in their use for better communications between parents and the academic environment. According to a survey by Schoolwires and Project Tomorrow conducted in 2012-13, 89 % of parents wanted their child in a class that used mobile devices, 37 % wanted teachers to be evaluated on their proficiency in using technology within instruction and 47 % wanted their child’s teacher or school to send text messages to their mobile device.
The rise of the digital parent has in turn changed the way the academic system interacts with them. Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, instant messaging and text messages are now being commonly used by schools to update the digital parent about the activities of the school and their children. Web portals that disseminate children's grades on school assignments to their locker combinations and lunch menu effectively use technology to bridge the information gap between schools and parents, to the point that the line between home and school has blurred considerably.
The use of digital media to connect school and parents is, however, not all smooth sailing. The level of access to and familiarity with digital technology can vary even among digital parents and thus it is essential for the community to provide literacy training to parents in order to level the variances. Organizations such as Technology Goes Home and CFY provide parent and teacher training to help establish a working equilibrium between the school and the digital parent.
Parenting aids such as pediatrics, counseling and nursing, already extensively exploit the opportunities afforded by digital media for sharing, providing social support, consulting professionals and training parental competencies among the digitally savvy parents. Such guided and self-guided interventions have been shown to positively contribute to the parenting experience. The advantage afforded by technology is that in contrast to traditional parenting intervention programs that largely targeted specific types of parents, the modern digital media offers support to large groups of parents who are connected digitally.
Digital parents are active partners in their child’s digital life and must set an example for smart Internet use. Apart from teaching computer skills to children, the digital parent is best suited to guide the child on issues of online safety, and digital citizenship. To fulfil President’ Obama’s wish that parents take responsibility to be actively involved in their children’s education, it is essential for all parents to become digital parents and it takes concerted effort by governments, society and families to enable such a transition.
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Any discussion supporting “women in technology” risks being construed as reverse-sexist, but statistics offer compelling justification for why it is vital to talk about it. Even though, 57 % of the American professional workforce has comprised women in 2013, in a ratio that in-fact skews the optimum 1:1 evolutionary ratio in favour of the ladies, women accounted for only 26 percent of the workforce in the area of technology and computers. Is there an explanation for this logic-defying ratio? Are the two X chromosomes somehow inclined to steer its bearers away from a field that practically defines the world now?
The dearth of women in technology has long been attributed to the pipeline problem of fewer girls in the STEM area of education. Although at the K12 level, girls are taking high level mathematics and science courses at similar rates as their male classmates, the ratio continues to remain lopsided when it comes to computer science, as shown by a survey of the Advanced Placement Exams - only 19% of girls took the computer science exam in 2011.
Dr. Rob Garcia, an educator and Mayor of the City of Long Beach, collates the reasons for fewer girls in computer science into the following key facts: lack of female role models (despite the world’s very first programmer being a woman) and mentors, engrained societal gender stereotypes reinforced by friends, family, and community, lack of confidence due to internal feelings of inadequacy (Imposter Syndrome), and differential teaching practices in the classroom. This situation is slowly changing with increasing awareness of the importance of encouraging girls to take up computer science both within families and in the social setup. For example, with the help of the Clinton Global Initiative America, the National Center for Women & Information Technology, through its Aspirations in Computing program, is working to add 10,000 more girls from kindergarten through graduate school, to the nation’s technology talent pool.
Such awareness and initiatives are already showing benefits. In a first in more than a few decades, University of California, Berkeley saw more number of women than men (106 to 104) taking computer science in college, in 2014. If such a trend is seen in other institutions as well (it is already seen in Stanford), and if all these students graduate successfully in four years, the dismal 12.9% female computer science graduates seen in 2012 could be boosted significantly.
Will the spike in female computer science graduates translate to more number of women in the tech industry? There are factors beyond education that cause the disturbing gender disparity. In a report titled “The Athena Factor: Reversing the Brain Drain in Science, Engineering, and Technology”, Harvard Business Review reports that more than half of the number of women in science, engineering and technology leave the field and never come back. The report also lists five “antigens” that cause this drain – marginalization by hostile macho culture, isolation in a male-dominated (bro-gramming?) environment, stalling – the gendered glass-ceiling, the need for risk and reward mentality and family (child rearing) reasons.
The apparent family-versus-job tussle as the single most important reason for women leaving tech-industry is not supported by statistics – the National Center for Women and Information Technology reports that although 56 percent of women with technical jobs leave their work midway through their careers, 31 percent go on to taking nontechnical jobs, which means that child-rearing is not necessarily the primary reason women move away.
Marginalization by hostile macho culture seems to be a widespread phenomenon in the tech industry. Vivek Wadhwa, American technology entrepreneur, found that 33 percent of female tech entrepreneurs faced “dismissive attitudes” from their colleagues and 15 percent said their abilities had been questioned. A recent research showed that 72% of U.S. women felt gender bias at work in their evaluations, and this is not merely subjective opinions or rants, it is supported by numbers - nearly 88% of women in 28 tech companies received critical feedback (most of which involving the word “abrasive”) against 59% of men (none of whom was called “abrasive”).
Even after transcending the “culture fit” mismatch rampant in techdom, the male-dominated workplace, could lead to isolation. Isolation is particularly severe up the ladder. According to the Kauffman Foundation, women account for only 10 percent of founders of “high-growth” firms. The challenges for women-owned firms include lack of mentors, their own view of success and failure, and a financing gap.
Pay disparity is another metaphorical elephant in the room that catalyzes the exodus of women from tech fields. A recent study from Glassdoor shows that women make less and are less satisfied with their jobs. Narrow the Gapp reports that women who work in computer and mathematical occupations make 84 cents to every dollar a man earns for the same job. The numbers are controversial, but research shows that even after adjusting for education, work hours etc., the pay gap is still an un-ignorable 14%.
Interestingly, the downward trend of women participation in technology is worst in the United States. In tech-intensive countries such as China and India, the situation is better, if not ideal. As early as 2004, India surpassed the United States in women’s IT workforce participation at 35%, and the figure continues to grow. That said, pay disparity continues to be plague the Indian IT industry, but given that many of the tech companies in India are of American origin, where does the problem lie? More Chinese tech companies have women in management positions than the Silicon Valley. This trend provides much food for thought and research and possibly interesting pointers on gender diversity vis-a-vis cultural and economic environments.
Any change to betterment is slow and takes a lot of effort and initiative. Like the three waves of the feminist movement that were pivotal in the empowerment of women in society, it takes concerted and consistent effort by women, families, society, industry and academia to bring about management course corrections to eliminate and not just narrow the gender gap in technology. The foundation must be laid early on. Women's organizations and universities already have outreach programs to encourage girls to take up computers in education. With such programs, coupled with the awareness that 2020 would see 1.4 million new jobs in technology, it is but natural for women to partake of their fair share of the pie. The change, though gradual, is palpable, and it will involve attitude, intention and effort by society as a whole to catalyze the process.
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"We can only have citizens who can live constructively in this kaleidoscopically changing world if we are willing for them to become self-starting, self-initiating learners," said Carl Rogers’ in 1968. It has never been more relevant than now, with self directed learning becoming an integral part of education in the digital age. The concept of self-directed education is not new, considering that as early as the first century AD, Plutarch proposed that "a learner is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted."
In more recent times, Malcolm Shepherd Knowles, through his concept of “androgogy” (adult learning), proposed the now-accepted formal definition of self-directed learning as a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes.
Learner autonomy lacks the structured and planned time and devoted space present in traditional classroom environment. Thus, a self-directed student must manage, monitor, and regulate the time, place, and progress of her learning to a greater degree than her classroom counterparts. In recent years, self-direction has been recommended as an important life-skill to be fostered through K-12 education. Within cognitive psychology, self-regulated learning has been considered an important milestone in providing independence to students.
Digital self-directed learners are typically those who are tech-savvy and aware of their responsibility in making learning meaningful. They are motivated and persistent, independent, self-disciplined and goal-oriented. However the effectiveness of self-directed learning depends as much on the availability of knowledge as on the attitude of the learner. The advent of the Internet has breathed new life into self-directed learning, given the extensive knowledge and support available online, which transcends geographic barriers.
Online learning opportunities, pedagogical shifts and easy accessibility of Internet through multiple devices offer attractive opportunities for learners to assume greater responsibility and initiative in their own learning. In fact, it may not be hyperbole to state that self-directed learning is now a mandatory skill rather than optional in order to impart both work readiness and the development of global citizenry (diversified, culturally sensitive and fully contributing social citizens) among the growing generation of digital natives.
While the Internet is a veritable source of all information, if not knowledge, lack of control mechanism and checkpoints makes it tricky to navigate the stormy ocean of information. Thus, individual skills in deciding upon the validity and reliability of information become essential, but this takes practice and time to develop. This is where scaffolding comes into play. Scaffolding involves assisting students initially, with slow withdrawal as their competence increases. While teachers are the primary scaffolds in traditional face-to-face learning environments, online learning environments, by their limits on face-to-face interaction, open up new definitions, opportunities and protocols for scaffolding.
Research shows that teachers' and peers' encouragement and support significantly influence student adoption of technology for self-directed learning. Thus, the success of self-directed digital learning depends significantly, at least in early stages, on the teachers' expectancies and instructional practices to teachers' encouragement and guidance in the use of technology-enhanced materials for learning.
Teacher scaffolding approaches in the digital era includes providing resources and activities that present questions for critical thinking and providing procedural guidance on how to access information online. These approaches are best mediated through the use of web-based or app-based tools that can creatively combine a range of learning technologies. Thus, teachers can use modern telecommunication technologies including instant messaging and blogging to provide consistent guidance and obtain timely feedback on student engagement and motivation, and to promote interaction and collaborative learning.
For example, according to a study on students’ opinions on Self-directed Learning, social media should be extensively used to achieve a better knowledge management system whether it is a purpose directed to peer to peer, student and supervisor, or student and mentor. For this, the teacher must assume the supportive role to help students engage in learning as a community of learners, rather than an individual. Research highlights the potential benefits of attending to students' achievement emotions in structuring online learning environments to facilitate their use of adaptive self-regulated learning strategies.
Teacher scaffolding in digital self-directed learning is also not without pitfalls. A delicate balance must be maintained in that too much scaffolding could dampen the drive towards self-directed learning, and too little scaffolding could result in anxiety, frustration, and loss of attrition. Ideally, the teacher moves from being an authority coach to motivator, facilitator and finally a consultant in digitally-empowered self directed learning. Thus, good scaffolding shifts the primary management and control of learning from the instructor to the student. With such methodical shift of responsibility, a digital self learner eventually develops the ability to search for information in multiple texts, employ different strategies to achieve goals, and to represent ideas in different forms.
It is vital that educators be trained to recognize and nurture self-directed learning using technology and be capable of creating learning environments that support it. A teacher who encourages freedom of learning and is open to it can accelerate the transition of learning from being teacher-centric to student centric. According to Roger Hiemstra, a scholar of adult learning and self-directed learning, a teacher plays six roles in self-directed learning – she is “content resource, resource locator, interest stimulator, positive attitude generator, creativity and critical thinking stimulator, and evaluation stimulator.” How the six roles are played eventually depends on the social setup, the attitude of the student and the willingness and enthusiasm of the teacher to engage in promoting self-learning among her students.
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Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves define Emotional Intelligence (EI) as the “ability to recognize and understand emotions in yourself and others, and your ability to use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships." How has technology impacted EI, especially among digital natives?
Daniel Goleman, author of several books on the subject, says that the expanding hours spent alone with gadgets and digital tools could lower EI due to shrinkages in the time young people spend in face-to-face interactions. Quite rightly, as technologies divert our attention away from a realistic present, there exists the danger of disconnect that decreases EI. But can the effect be quantified, or at least qualified? Or is it hokum? EI is measured by the dimensions of Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy and Social Skills. How does technology impact each of these dimensions?
Going by the Wikipedia definition of Self-Awareness as the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals, the digital age does indeed have a sizeable impact on self awareness. Nora Young from CBC Spark believes that digitization and the proliferation of data is creating a new kind of self awareness among the digital natives. The action of posting a thought on to Twitter, Facebook, or some other of the myriad social networks available, could, depending on its reception by peers, cause an ego boost (bordering narcissism) or slump, more likely the latter. In a survey of 298 users of social media, 50 percent said social media made their lives and their self-esteem worse.
On one hand, many youngsters are ignorant of the privacy intrusions in their digital presence, and of permanence of digital data, making them rash in posting stuff that might backfire at a later date, either on a personal level or on their employability. On the other hand, the flexibility of new digital tools undoubtedly provides students with a platform for creativity which could have a large positive impact on self awareness.
Self-regulation, the ability to stay focused and alert, is probably the one dimension of EI that is affected most by technology. Technology-induced distractions are a common complaint among parents and teachers. Ability to focus is very closely related to the emotional health of the individual, as was shown in a longitudinal study conducted with over 1,000 children in New Zealand. As Goleman aptly says, “What we need to do is be sure that the current generation of children has the attentional capacities that other generations had naturally before the distractions of digital devices. It’s about using the devices smartly but having the capacity to concentrate as you need to, when you want to.”
The role of technology in motivation is one area that has elicited much controversy. Many teachers bemoan the decrease in the motivation in the classroom due to the effect of fast paced video games and instant information at their fingertips. However, there are others who believe that the digital revolution can indeed motivate students, albeit in ways hitherto unknown to the digital immigrants. Many teachers have also found noticeable increase in the level of engagement students exhibited with their projects when they were encouraged to use digital media. The appeal of digital media lies in the idea of sharing their work with a wide variety of people from all over the world through the Internet. In another example, in the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS), which is conducted online, students enjoyed taking the exam more via the computer and answered more questions rather than guessing randomly or simply quitting, which they would have done in a paper-pencil exam.
Empathy is another area of EI that could be affected by technology. Empathy is a trait that requires a human touch, face-to-face interactions and communication through verbal as well as non-verbal cues. E-communication tools such as chat, messaging and social networking websites, while offering the possibility of breaking free of geographic confines, pose a challenge to developing empathetic relationships with another human being. Jennifer Aaker, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a co-author of “The Dragonfly Effect,” analyzed 72 studies performed on nearly 14,000 college students between 1979 and 2009 and show a sharp decline in the empathy trait over the last 10 years.
The major culprit in the fall of empathy is the desensitization to shocking images and events that are perpetrated by all forms of media, Internet included. The gruesome videos online, not only feed grim curiosity but also remove the element of horror. Sara H. Konrath of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor found that the self-reported empathy of college students has declined since 1980, with a steep drop in the past decade. This, understandably, coincided with the rise of students’ self-reported narcissism reported by Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University. Konrath believes that the increase in social isolation, has led to the drop in empathy.
The digital natives socialize in a way that is vastly different from their parents - over 10,000 hours playing video games, over 200,000 emails and instant messages sent and received; over 10,000 hours talking on digital cell phones – all before they leave for college. Yet, they are apparently less “connected” than their digital immigrant parents. MIT Professor Sherry Turkle states that social media, and technology are actually causing us to disconnect. A similar refrain is played by Stephen March as “we are more connected, yet we feel less connected” in, as Goleman calls it, “a kind of cauterized life.” Indeed many of us are no longer “pizzled” at social gathering when our conversation partner suddenly ignores us in favour of a smart tool.
Thus it seems that technology does not bode particularly well for Emotional Intelligence. That however, does not demonize technology. As an intelligent species, we have made technology cater to our “intelligence”; as emotional beings, how difficult could it be to make it serve our emotional quotient as well?
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Almost all teenagers in first-world countries have a strong Internet presence and extensively share personal content and opinions online. The 2011 Pew Internet survey reported that 95% of U.S. young adults between ages 12 through 17 are online, of whom, 80% have profiles on social media sites, as compared to only 64% of the online population aged 30 and older.
Why is there so much media use among teenagers? The answer lies largely in the change in lifestyle of the upwardly mobile population where increasing numbers of single working parent and dual-working parent households raise latchkey kids, and after-school programs that eat into play- and socialization-time of the kids. The lack of time for face-to-face socialization is compounded by practical issues such as mobility difficulties, curfew legislations and parental restrictions that stem from fears of predators, drug dealers, and gangs. Changes in society, market and law, along with the advent of Internet and its various applications, have thus resulted in the emergence of a decentralized social life in a virtual setting.
The increased presence of youth online has raised serious concerns about the safety of Internet and social media use. Difficulty in self-regulation, lack of awareness of repercussions of privacy compromise and susceptibility to peer pressure are listed as reasons for teenagers’ cavalier attitude towards online risks such as sexting, cyberbullying, “Facebook depression,” and exposure to inappropriate content as they navigate the tricky waters of social media. On the other hand, there has also been criticism of the moral panic that surrounds the safety of extensive digital (in particular Internet/social networking) use by youth. So, is Internet really a minefield or is it just a digital-extension of the pervasive stereotype that demonizes youth?
Moral panic notwithstanding, the risks of Internet and social media to teenagers is just as real as the risks in society. Internet addiction is now a real disorder, and like all forms of addiction, it adversely affects academics, family time, physical and mental health and finance. Internet addiction has been exacerbated by social media applications that house chat rooms and instant messaging among youth. Current research indicates that ego-identity achievement among middle school students is negatively related to pathological and extreme Internet use.
Cyberbullying, in the forms of name-calling and gossiping, spreading rumors, making threats, or otherwise sending malicious messages through emails, message boards and social media, has augmented offline bullying and estimates of the incidence of cyber bullying range from 23 to 72% in various studies (see here, here and here). Exposure to age-inappropriate sexual content is another serious risk because it causes much damage to an age-group that is already prone to sexual uncertainty and uncommitted and possibly unsafe sexual exploration. Dangerous communities that support self-harm activities, such as anorexia, drug use, and such other disruptive concepts are also serious pitfalls of unsupervised Internet usage among teens.
Of course, seeing the above risks as stand-alone perils will raise mass hysteria against youth or Internet or more likely, both. It must be remembered that the online risks to adolescents is a subset of overall teenage hazards. Youngsters already emotionally imbalanced or prone to disruptive behaviour are obviously more vulnerable online and are more likely to commit to unsafe or irresponsible actions in the virtual world. However, there are some risks that are common to all youngsters and such risks are largely built on the attitude and behaviour of the youth themselves, rather than them being victims of an unfair attack.
Research has shown that there is a positive correlation between parents’ level of privacy concern and that of their teenaged children. Thus parents can influence their children’s attitudes and behavior through advice and perhaps monitoring the media presence of these teenagers. However the latter could be a double edged sword, as teenagers, naturally inclined to rebel against parental insurgence into their private space, may practice deception which may override any parental measure to increase safety. For example, adolescents may use pseudonyms and false identifying information like age and location to protect themselves, on the advice of their parents. Ironically, the same technique could also be adopted by them to insulate themselves from the eyes of parents.
Many youngsters suppose that security through obscurity is protection enough. Teen bloggers, for example, often believe that their audience is limited to their friends and (less likely) family and could reveal compromising information and exhibit themselves in provocative and socially unacceptable forms. The personal anonymity of the Internet is, however deceptive, especially for teens, who are the focus of two groups of people - parents, teachers, local government officials, etc., who may wish to protect them, and marketers and predators that do harm.
Peluchette and Karl from the University of Southern Indiana found that young adults in the U.S. expressed little concern about sharing updates and pictures on social network sites such as Facebook. Women were more concerned about future employers seeing some of their pictures and comments, especially those related to alcohol, than men. The women were justified by a 2013 survey that reports that 1 of every 10 young job applicants was rejected because of content they had posted on social media, including “provocative or inappropriate photos or posts,” and “content about drinking or using drugs”.
Online victimization of youth is only one head of Janus. The youngster, without proper guidance, could be a perpetrator herself; indeed. A recent study by McAfee reports that 15% of teens have hacked a social network account, 30.7% access pirated movies and music, 8.7% have hacked someone’s email online, 16% of teens having admitted to looking for test answers on their phone, and 48.1% of teens having looked up answers online.
It is very essential for a child to know of the potential risks even before she enter tweendom. Early intervention and education enables the teenager to make responsible decisions on how to use the net and its various functions. For this, open communication between the adult and child is extremely important from early childhood. It is indeed tricky to find the balance between setting boundaries and giving freedom but it must be done early on to enable easy and safe transition of the teenager into adulthood.
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Regular users of Mobicip know that our biggest goal is to make life easy for you as a parent while allowing your kids to experience the wonders of the Internet safely. That is why we constantly churn out new features, updates and platforms over time as the technology evolves. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at some goodies being cooked.
Monitor App for Android
Review your kids' browsing history and make changes conveniently from your own Android smartphone or tablet. The iOS version has been immensely popular, and we hope the Android version is just as handy and useful.
Get notified, and take action, when your kids install a new app or request access to a blocked page or content, via the Monitor app.
Mac Parental Controls
We hear you! With Apple growing to be the 3rd largest PC-seller, its about time to add Mobicip's best-in-class parental controls to Mac OS X.
Windows Parental Controls
Look out for revamped edition of Mobicip for Windows that works efficiently, has a slick new UI, and blends in seamlessly with AV programs that you already have in place.
There is more where these cool new features are coming from. We are constantly adding more tools to help foster a healthy partnership between parents and kids as they navigate the new technology landscape together. Stay tuned!
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The second of Howard Gardner’s eight forms of intelligence that combine in different ratios to define an individual, is that of mathematical and logical thinking. Logical mathematical intelligence may be formally defined as the capacity to reason, calculate, apply logic, think critically, and sometimes abstractly, all of which draw their basic principles from mathematics. Educational communities around the world recognize logical and mathematical reasoning to be essential parts not only of education, but of literacy itself. The American National Literacy Act of 1991 defines literacy as “an individual’s ability to read, write, and speak in English, and compute and solve problems at levels of proficiency necessary to function on the job and in society to achieve one’s goals, and develop one’s knowledge and potential”.
The role of technology in fostering mathematical and logical intelligence is obvious in that technology is built on the same mathematical principles and logic that drive life itself. The ancestors of modern digital gadgets – Pascal’s and Leibniz’s mechanical calculating machines, Napier’s logarithms, Babbage’s difference engine, Newman’s Colossus and Turing’s Bombe – have all been built on principles of logic and mathematics and in turn support mathematical developments. Jeanette Wing, in a seminal article, states that solving problems, designing systems, and understanding human behavior in real life can be closely related to the concepts fundamental to computer science and technology and coined the term “computational thinking ”, which must, in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, be added to every child’s education.
Technology can support mathematics education through dynamic software, anchored instruction, networked devices, participatory simulations, games, and construction kits. The challenge lies in developing technology that engages students with interesting and stimulating applications of mathematics that are relevant to the real world.
Concrete manipulatives – objects such as the Abacus, Cuisenaire Rods, Base 10 Blocks, and Fraction Circles – that have traditionally been used in teaching mathematics, can potentially be replaced by virtual manipulatives that are dynamic virtual representations of the concrete manipulatives, but with the added advantage that they can go beyond the capabilities of physical objects. The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (NLVM) for example, offers interactive, web-based virtual manipulatives and concept tutorials for mathematics instruction. A comprehensive study by researchers at the Clayton State University on the use of concrete and virtual manipulatives in math education showed that while pre-service teachers found concrete manipulatives to be easier to use, students found both types of manipulatives useful to understand mathematical concepts. This is to be expected, as the teachers typically belong to the digital immigrant generation with a steep learning curve, while the students, in all likelihood, are digital natives, at home with technology. The study concluded that incorporating both types of manipulatives into the instruction of mathematics helps build better conceptual understanding and provides sound pedagogical strategies for use with future students.
Gaming offers a rich ground for mathematical and logical training. However, the use of games and simulations to teach and train in mathematics and logistics cannot follow the carrot-in-stick routine, such as the technique proposed by Michael Grove, the education secretary to the UK Government, where equations are solved “in order to get more ammo to shoot the aliens”. Mary Matthews of Blitz Games Studio, UK, aptly responds as “Using games for motivation is only one facet, [...] exploration, experimentation, team building, problem-solving and independent, personalised, differentiated experiences [will tap into] the full potential games can offer for learning”.
The NRICH Project, perhaps meets the goals of Matthews. It aims at enriching the mathematical experiences among learners and focuses on strategy games to develop essential problem-solving skills in a stimulating environment. NRICH’s strategy games are defined as being low-threshold, high-ceiling tasks where the child can easily access the game at its basic level and play ‘randomly’ while developing a winning strategy.
A simple search for online math tools produces hundreds of sites that offer various kinds of math training and education. Sites like A+ Click Math, Math Worksheets Lands, NumberBender , Get the Math and Math Worksheet Generator are some of many that offer supplementary practice problems in primary and secondary level mathematics. Math Pickle, featuring mathematics videos for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade, approaches mathematics from the standpoint of a problem solver instead of from the standpoint of a rules follower. These sites are but tip of the iceberg.
The current barriers to the use of technology in furthering mathematical and logical thinking include the general mindset that digital technologies are an add-on to learning mathematics and inadequate guidance on the use of technological tools in both statutory and non-statutory curriculum. According to a recent report by UK’s National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics, the main concerns among teachers of mathematics on the use of digital technologies are:
- lack of confidence with digital technologies;
- fears about resolving problems with technology;
- insecurity of knowing less than their learners who are digital natives;
- access to digital technologies;
- inappropriate training;
- lack of time for preparation;
- lack of awareness of how technology might support learning;
- not having technology use clearly embedded into schemes of work.
John Seely Brown, cofounder of the Institute for Research on Learning , and an expert in digital youth culture, digital media, and the application of technology to enable deep learning, states that the Web may be the first medium that honors the notion of multiple intelligences. Among the different types of intelligences classified by Gardner, Brown’s notion is best suited for mathematical and logical intelligence. But the sheer volume of “help” available online for mathematical and logical training could potentially render the effort futile. It is up to the instructor and user to use their judgement to choose tools that are relevant to their needs and development.
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Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences proposed in 1989, which may be grossly summarized as “students possess different kinds of minds and therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways”, despite eliciting much controversy, has had a profound impact on education, especially in America. With technology making inroads into education and changing the face of learning, is this theory still relevant?
Intelligence, according to Gardner, is of eight types – verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic; existential and moral intelligence were added as afterthoughts in the definition of Intelligence. This is the first in a series of posts that explore and understand how each of the above forms of intelligence is affected by technology-mediated education.
Verbal-linguistic Intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish goals. Such intelligence is fostered by three specific activities: reading, writing and interpersonal communication – both written and oral. The traditional tools that have been used to efficiently develop verbal/linguistic intelligence - textbook, pencil, and paper - have given way to technology in many schools. eBooks, Internet lesson plans, online assignments and word processing software, or a subset of the above, are now ubiquitous in schools. Technology allows addition of multisensory elements that provide meaningful contexts to facilitate comprehension, thus expanding the learning ground of language and linguistics.
Research into the effect of technology on the development of the language and literacy skills vis-à-vis reading activities of children has offered evidence for favourable effects of digital form of books. Moody (2010) for example, shows that digital reading materials have become common in developing countries in early childhood classrooms to support engagement in storybooks while enhancing the emergent literacy among children. Zucker et al., (2009) show that e-books are also being increasingly used to teach reading among beginners and children with reading difficulties.
Technology can be used to improve reading ability in many ways. It can enhance and sustain the interest levels for digitial natives by allowing immediate feedback on performance and providing added practice when necessary. Case and Truscott (1999), show that students are able to improve their sight word vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension through computer-based reading.
Technology can also help in improvement of writing skills. Word processing software promotes not only composition but also editing and revising in ways that streamline the task of writing. Desktop publishing and web-based publishing allow the work to be taken beyond the classroom into a virtual world that allows more constructive interactions.
Until social media sites took over at the turn of the century, electronic mail had been a good way to promote verbal/linguistic learning, through letter writing. The widespread complaint among language experts on the deleterious effects of technology on written skills arises from the use of homophones and new acronyms in messaging that creep into formal writing as well. A Pew Internet and American Life Project entitled “Writing, Technology and Teens,” reports that although 60% of youths aged 12-17 do not consider electronic communications appropriate for formal situations, 64 percent admitted to inadvertently using some form of shorthand in formal documents. However, the web cannot be discounted as being “bad for language”, considering that it also offers very useful tools such as blogging and microblogging that can help the student improve her writing skills with dynamic feedback. The possibility of incorporating other media into a written document (e.g. figures, graphics, videos etc.) can enhance the joy of writing using technology.
While there is indeed a hue and cry about the adverse effects of social networking sites on youngsters, there are people who believe in several benefits to language learners from social online communication. Margaret Hawkins, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison School of Education, states that online communication offers more opportunities for expression and meaningful discourse than face-to-face discussions, greater linguistic production, more student engagement, and multi-directional interaction. She also believes that schools do not consider Internet activities as educational, especially in the realm of linguistic education.
Technology enhanced oral communication is indeed useful in that it allows students from remote locations, or from all over the world to communicate orally through video and audio conferencing tools. For example, students of languages in Australian universities overcome the problem of insufficient contact with native language speakers by using online audio and video tools that allow the development of aural, vocal and visual-cognition skills that are important in verbal and linguistic education. Oral group discussions in the form of video conferencing can help non-native speakers of a language with natural language negotiation and cultural intonations in ways that have hitherto not been possible due to geographic isolation/distancing.
As with anything to do with technology, there are also detractors who propose negative influence of features like animation, sound, music and other multimedia effects possible in digital media, which may distract young readers from the story content. The complaint that constant use of digital technology hampers attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, is also commonly heard. However, to be fair, such a complaint encompasses all fields and is not specific to Gardener’s seven types of intelligence.
Such complaints notwithstanding, the symbiotic ties between linguistics and technology cannot be ignored. The award winning Bluetooth-enabled glove that converts sign language into spoken languages, speaks volumes of the close connection between technology and linguistics that benefits humanity as a whole. No less impressive is the Endangered Languages Project, that strives to develop technological tools to document marginalised and/or dying languages.
There is no doubt that computer aided language learning and computer mediated communication enhance teaching and learning experiences in the areas of linguistics and language intelligence. Although there have not been comprehensive studies on the use of technologies to aid K-12 English-language learners, there have been many individual computer programs and other technologies that accelerate the acquisition of phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and reading-comprehension skills and other language building blocks.
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The brain is a neuroplastic organ that is constantly changing in response to external stimuli. Given the enormity of the stimulus caused by the Internet, it seems logical that it can cause significant cerebral adaptations. Or is the digital era too recent to be able to cause significant changes in brain structure yet?
On one hand are neuroscientists such as Susan Greenﬁeld, who believe that the digital era could be detrimental to the human brain. Greenfield argues that the prefrontal cortex would be damaged, underdeveloped or underactive in technology addicts, just as it is in gamblers, schizophrenics or the obese. Researchers from Xidian University, China have recently reported that long-term Internet addiction does result in brain structural alterations, which could contribute to chronic dysfunction in subjects with Internet Addiction Disorder.
There are others who differ. Jeff Jarvis, author of “Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live” believes that technology will not change our brains and how we are ‘wired,’ but affects and changes how we cognate and navigate our world, which could in fact, be beneficial. A study by Gary Small at UCLA in 2008 showed that Internet browsing activities triggered key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. It is little wonder then that digital natives are better at snap decisions and juggling sensory input than digital immigrants. This could indicate that technology and gadgets do possibly rewire the brain to function better, especially during adolescence, which is considered a sensitive period for cognitive developments. Studies have also demonstrated that playing action video games can enhance visual attention and improve decision making skills for youth and the aged alike. It is the content of the video games, i.e. the amount of violence and/or inappropriate, unethical scenarios that could adversely affect the player’s psych.
Sparrow and co-workers of Columbia University recently studied the memory of college students vis à vis Internet use and found an interesting pattern. While extensive users of Internet (search engines, in particular) could not recall information itself, they could easily and accurately recall where to find that information online. Thus, the Internet has become an external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside us. But this in and of itself is not a new concept. The notion of “transactive memory” proposed by Wegner has been around since 1985 (“no need to remember birthdays, just remember that the wife does”) and the Internet merely subscribes to this form of memory.
Gary Small and co-workers have also reported that Internet searching engages more neural circuitry than, say, reading text pages. Thus, among middle-aged and older adults, Internet use may favourably alter the neural circuits controlling short term memory. However, since our brains use information stored in the long-term memory to facilitate critical thinking, there may be a certain loss in this area upon extensive Internet usage.
There have also been studies on the connection between brain and technology-induced multitasking. Multitasking does not mean “performing multiple tasks at the same time”, which is not possible, but “switching between tasks at an extreme rate of more than four switches per minute”. Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 8- to 18-year-old youths carry out extensive “media multitasking” and the compulsive need to rapidly switch between multiple media has led to the belief that there may be a greater incidence of ADHD type disorders among youth. There is also the school of thought that given the brain’s limits to the ‘‘cognitive load’’ it can handle, multitasking leads to loss of efficiency. Switching attention across tasks occurs in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that is one of the last regions to mature in children and one of the ﬁrst to decline with aging. However, Carrier and co-workers of California State University, Carson, did not find any relationship, positive or otherwise, between brain function and media multitasking.
Kep Kee Loh and Ryota Kanai of the University of Sussex report differently. They have demonstrated that brain structure CAN be altered upon prolonged exposure to novel environments and experience. They have confirmed through MRI studies that people who extensively media-multitasked had smaller gray matter density in the anterior cingulate cortex of the brain. This could possibly result in decreased cognitive control performance and socio-emotional regulation in heavy media-multitaskers. However, the researchers also disclaim that it is not yet clear if media-multitasking causes changes in the brain or whether people with less dense gray matter are attracted to media-multitasking in the first place - a classic chicken-egg scenario.
The digital era has, since its conception, continuously elicited various types of moral panic that have engaged scientists, psychologists, sociologists, educators, policy makers and most importantly, media. The anxiety around technology and Internet has provoked intense debate on its effects on the biology of the brain. ‘‘Neuroplasticity’’ has been a powerful word in arguments both for and against the effect of technology on the brain. Studies in neuroscience have supported and challenged the proposed negative effects, thus leading to neuro-alarmism and neuro-enthusiasm respectively. But the real situation lies probably somewhere in the middle. Before succumbing to media frenzy in denouncing or hailing technology/Internet as bane or boon in terms of human evolution and brain conditioning, it is important to remember that the human cognition is distributed across brain, body and the tool (digital or otherwise) and is not a stand-alone quality, but one that is critically influenced by the surrounding as much as by the system itself.
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