NATIONAL TV TURNOFF WEEK
Candice has taught middle and high school for the past eight years. Since 2000, Candice asked her ninth-grade students to turn off their TVs, Internet, computer games and other media for an entire week in order to participate in National TV Turnoff Week.
About three years ago, Candice noticed that her students weren’t watching television as much so she included anything with a screen (DVDs, games, theater, etc). “The goal of the week is to disengage from the screen time that dominates our day and reengage with families and friends as well as to remember what it’s like to experience life without electronic devices,” says Candice.
So her students begrudgingly turned off all media that comes with a screen. On the whole, Candice says the project is usually always successful. Most students are honest, disciplined and surprisingly positive about the whole experience. “It was incredible some of the responses that they wrote in their journals,” says Candice. “But some were angry, because it totally messed up their social life.”
More recently in the classroom, Candice says she found herself involved in the dramas surrounding her students and their MySpace dilemmas. “I took notice that these kids were spending a lot of time on MySpace,” says Candice, “and their parents knew nothing about it.”
According to Harrison Group’s 2006 Teen Trends Study, 68 percent of American teens have an online profile with MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, etc. Eighty-seven percent of teens go online everyday. Sixty-five percent of teens say that what they are doing online their parents would not want to know about.
Candice says there are obvious threats to child safety because many of these sites are not appropriate for anyone under the age of 18. She says that online sexual predators are extremely dangerous, but there are safety issues being put into place to make online networking sites safer with lots of work yet that needs to be done. “The point is that parents need to know what is going on online with their teens,” says Candice. “Sexual predators are made out to be the main thing and that issue is minor compared to what is the main issue.” The real issue she says is how the culture of MySpace is shaping the lives of teens today, especially as they come of age.
THE MYSPACE AGE
Curious about why her students were so hooked on MySpace, Candice logged on one night. “What I proceeded to experience was a disconcerting cyber-journey,” says Candice. “At the time, it really shocked me. They were not the same students sitting in my classroom.
"One student was a quiet, demure, intelligent, soft-spoken young woman in her classroom. Her MySpace profile contradicted this image 180 degrees!" There were provocative photos, obscenities and expletives. All were a surprise to Candice and left a nagging question: Who are these kids really?
The point on MySpace is to have as many friends as possible. The girls want to look glamorous so they can get added to other kids’ profiles. The drug and pornography culture is glorified on these sites. She says there are unhealthy messages that our kids are hearing through this form of media.
Candice says parents need to make the offline world more appealing than the online world. This needs to start before age 11 or 12, which is the age that crosses over to the online world. The other thing she suggests for parents to do is to sign on to MySpace. Experience it for 20 minutes a day for a week. Have a fake profile and look at the teen culture on MySpace. “You can’t address the issue if you don’t know what it is,” says Candice. “It’s a window into your teen’s identity.” Banning MySpace would be a mistake she believes. “It’s part of their social world. Rather we need to keep lines of communication open and discuss how to use it responsibly.”
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