2008-07-14

NYTimes - Text Generation Gap: U R 2 Old (JK)

This nytimes article is from back in March, but it really captures the ideas of this site. Children are using cell-phones to both maintain privacy from and stay connected to their parents. For some, texting has become a form of "digital whispering" -
After that, the back-seat chattering stopped. When Mr. Hampton looked into his rearview mirror he saw his daughter sending a text message on her cellphone. “Katie, you shouldn’t be texting all the time,” Mr. Hampton recalled telling her. “Your friends are there. It’s rude.” Katie rolled her eyes again.
“But, Dad, we’re texting each other,” she replied with a harrumph. “I don’t want you to hear what I’m saying.”

The article also cites some statistics showing that children are the ones teaching the parents how to use these devices -
In a survey released 18 months ago, AT&T found that among 1,175 parents the company interviewed, nearly half learned how to text-message from their children. More than 60 percent of parents agreed that it helped them communicate, but that sometimes children didn’t want to hear their voice at all. When asked if their children wanted a call or a text message requesting that they be home by curfew, for instance, 58 percent of parents said their children preferred a text.

The implications of these statistics are that in order to design mobile learning interactions for children, we need to adapt to the ways in which they are already using their phones.
The other quotes that I found especially compelling from Sherry Turkle, professor at MIT, described a trip with her daughter to Paris.
“Part of the idea of Paris is being in Paris,” Ms. Turkle said. But during an afternoon stroll, her daughter received several calls and text messages on her cellphone from friends back in Boston. Her daughter, she said, felt compelled to return every one.
When Ms. Turkle asked why she didn’t turn off her cellphone and enjoy the city, she said her daughter replied, “I feel more comfortable talking with my friends.”

If children feel isolated when in public spaces away from their friends, then I think that we need to design learning spaces that take into account the entire social networks that a child may bring.
--rolf

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