Raising the Digital Generation: What Parents Need to Know About Digital Media and Learning

A few weeks ago, I was asked to represent the School of Communications by giving a talk for Trojans Parent Weekend at USC. (For those who do not follow American universities and their team mascots, the Trojans is the name for the USC sports team and thus, the name that is attached to anyone affiliated with the university.) Below, you can find the webcast version of my remarks, which sought to congratulate parents on their obvious success in raising a child smart enough to become part of our student body and to challenge some of their preconceptions about the forms of informal learning their offspring may have encountered in the course of their interactions with new media platforms and practices.

I felt that this talk might be of interest to my readers, many of whom are educators and/or parents, and who have displayed in the past great interest in my posts on new media and learning. Parents receive so little advice about how to confront the real challenges of navigating the digital environment which is unfamiliar to them and often to their children. Most often, they are told just say no. The more you restrict media use, the better parent you are. And for God's sake, keep the computer out of the kid's bedroom. But none of that feels adequate for a world where there is real learning taking place on line, where learning to navigate the new media environment is going to be key for your offspring's future success. Our schools are already blocking access to many of these core technologies and often refusing to advise youth about how to use them ethically, safely, and creatively. If parents start shutting off computers in the home, they really do close down potentials for their children's growth and development. And if they start snooping through their young person's internet accounts, they run the risk of damaging trust that is going to be vital for their long term relationship. My core advice to parents: Kids need someone to watch their back and not snoop over their shoulders. They need adults who are as engaged in their online lives as they are with their off-line lives -- not less and not more.

Some of what you hear here will be familiar, reflecting other talks and essays I've published on the work of Project New Media Literacies. Some will be newer, having to do with my ongoing projects in the area of youth, new media, and civic engagement.

I mentioned there in passing that we are in the process of creating the Participatory Culture and Learning Lab in the Annenberg School. Participatory Culture has long been the over-arching theme of my work, whether applied to think about creative industries and consumer/fan culture, new media literacies and education, or civic engagement. Over the past year, I have been transitioning out of many of the research roles I played through the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and consolidating my research efforts here at USC. I have been lucky to draw several key members of my research staff on the East coast to join me here in sunny California -- including Erin Reilly who has long been the research director of the New Media Literacies team (and now is building affiliations with the Annenberg Innovation Lab) -- and I have reunited with Sangita Shreshtova, a CMS alum, who is now Research Director for the work we are doing on civic engagement with the MacArthur and Spencer Foundations. PCL (which people are already calling Pickle) represents an umbrella organization which will sustain these efforts while opening up a space for new research initiatives down the line.