Kids Today

In my early years of teaching Internet law I thought the course would be relevant for a decade or so.  No longer.  These days I tell my students that someday all law will be Internet law as our lives become more entangled with network and digital technology.  The wave is still building.  The effects of network technology (admittedly a vague term, it’s a stew in which I throw telecommunications, digital content, mobile computing, the Internet, and whatever else is on hand) on my current and future students fascinates me (see, for instance, My Office Minutes are From 2 to 2:05, Redefining Sexting, Massachusetts on Verge of Anti-Bullying Law).  I want to understand the effects because I need to know how to reach these students, because it’s relevant to Internet law, and because it’s inherently interesting.

Teaching About Web Includes Troublesome Parts from yesterday’s NYTimes captured my attention.  The story centers on classes developed by Common Sense Media to teach younger students “to consider their online behavior before they get into trouble”:  “identity (how do you present yourself online?); privacy (the world can see everything you write); ownership (plagiarism, reproducing creative work); credibility (legitimate sources of information); and community (interacting with others).”  This fact in particular stood out from the article’s references to cyber bullying, the blurred line between virtual and real life, and the Internet’s amplifying effect on “typical adolescent behavior.”

The average young person spends seven and a half hours a day with a computer, television or smart phone, according to a January study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Considering that the time is mostly outside of school, the results suggest that almost every extracurricular hour is devoted to online life (emphasis added).

The referenced study is Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.  Based on a survey of over 2,000 3rd to 12th-grade students conducted between October 2008 and May 2009 the 85-page document reports that:

  • “The increase in media use is driven in large part by ready access to mobile devices like cell phones and iPods. Over the past five years, there has been a huge increase in ownership among 8- to 18-year-olds: from 39% to 66% for cell phones, and from 18% to 76% for iPods and other MP3 players. During this period, cell phones and iPods have become true multi-media devices: in fact, young people now spend more time listening to music, playing games, and watching TV on their cell phones (a total of :49 daily) than they spend talking on them (:33).”
  • “Top online activities include social networking (:22 a day), playing games (:17), and visiting video sites such as YouTube (:15). Three-quarters (74%) of all 7th-12th graders say they have a profile on a social networking site.”
  • 7th-12th graders report spending an average of 1:35 a day sending or receiving texts. (Time spent texting is not counted as media use in this study.)”

I look forward to dealing with these strange new creatures.