Facebook Stole my Childhood

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2011 7:07pm

Jayne Kirkham blogs from the session….

Jo Twist, Commissioning Editor for Education , Channel 4
Henry Becket, Writer / Director
James Charlton, The Advertising Association
Barbie Clarke, Managing Director, Family Kids and Youth
Ian Douthwaite, CEO, Dubit
Tamara Littleton, CEO, eModeration
Produced by:
Benedict Evans, Interactive Producer, Freelance

 A good session that despite the sensationalist title, was rather meditative.  No we didn’t dress in orange and hum.  In fact it was all very tweety and if you’re on twitter no need to read this.  The session started with short statements like “online people are a form of currency”,  “Brands that engage with children need to act responsibly”,  “This is the second generation of children to grow up in a media savvy world.”  “Social Media is beneficial to children’s social and psychological development but parents just don’t understand.  Apparently much has been done to keep children safe but the big fat elephant in everyone’s room is that the under 13s are on Facebook whether we like it or not.  


The truth is that parents are not so worried about online advertising etc. as much as stranger danger.  The other truth is that most children transfer the their playground skills online- perceiving the dangers and tell their friends. The children that are vulnerable in the playground, the isolated and unloved are the same ones that are vulnerable on the Internet.


The intergenerational divide is nothing new: social spaces are the same as telly was for us years ago.  Think of the swimming pool analogy – parents and children can paddle in the shallow end together with armbands and then move up the deep end, take off the water wings with a life guard sitting on the side. But who needs the waterwings? Children are savvy but parents are foundering.  Only 32% of parents with 10-12 year olds use safe search settings. If nothing else comes out of the Bailey Review (read for yourself on the Dept of Education website), having a sustained campaign to educate parents would be a good thing.  More extra curricular reading “Vulnerable Children Online” by Steve Carrick Davies. 


So the conclusion seems to be that children growing up in uncharted territory is nothing new – we just sound like our parents.  But that isn’t to dismiss the fears – are our children learning to express their feelings and connect with people in ways we couldn’t?  Or are they becoming hideous narcissists who expect the entire universe to be remotely interested in the minutiae of their lives?    Nor is it to abrogate corporate or parental responsibility. Are we simply feeding the big brand monster or are we giving terrific feedback that makes us part of a bigger process?  Is this social change permanent or just a phase?  Will the fatuous tweeting die out after a while?  Oh Please.