One of the keynote speakers yesterday was Beeban Kidron Film Director and Co-founder of FILMCLUB in the UK. FILMCLUB provides young people in the UK with the chance to watch, discuss and review a diverse range of films. The aim is to feed their imagination and nurture their social and intellectual development.
Part of the program for yesterday was a screening of “InRealLife“, a documentary by Beeban Kidron about British teenagers and about “exactly what the internet is doing to our children”.
To start with the positive note: the movie led to a lot of discussion. We went out to dinner afterwards and out group talked about it for quite some time. One thing, I think, there consensus about was that this documentary, like so many like it, paint a too one sided / dark picture of both the future of our children and of the effect that the internet has on that future. Personally, I found it particularly annoying that whenever the topic of the big companies like Google and Facebook was touched, the music was as ominous as could possibly be.
That does *not* mean that some of the stories weren’t hart breaking, for example the one about the girl that was coerced (forced) into doing things she normally would not have done to get her smartphone back. But where was the comparison to similar situations in times when teenagers did not have smartphones yet. Do not tell me you for one second believe that in the sixties no girl has been forced by a boy to do things that she did not want to do!
An why stop at just identifying that it happened? Why not ask the boy that realizes that it is a shame that the beautiful girls with a lovely personality that he meets no longer trust boys, what he thinks that adults should do to prevent that?
Joi Ito, one of the few sensible adults in the documentary, says that he would worry if we would have children play with wooden toys until they are 18. And I think he is right.
And just because a boy (aged 14) tragically takes his own live because he was being bullied online, does not mean the same would not have happened without the internet.
An why is it left up to us to decide whether we think that it is great or weird that a young boy, who is in love with another boy, has a platonic, online relationship with that boy for a couple of months before they finally meet (and rub phones)? Imagine what the life of that boy would have been without the internet? Living in a small town where nothing ever happens. Without means to safely, securely discover his feelings for this other boy like he was now able to do thanks to all those online media.
A wise / smart filmmaker would say that he/she was only observing, not judging. But given all the other warnings and FUD, that is a position that cannot be held.
An because of that imbalance in the documentary my general feeling about it was that it must have felt the same when adults were worried about the moves made by Elvis. They too thought is was something their children should be protected from.
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”