Opening Keynote – Lane Merrifield

Posted on: Wednesday 04 July 2012 7:07pm

Blogged by Jayne Kirkham.

The CMC Keynote “Ahead of the Game”

Introduced by: Anna Home OBE, chair, The Children’s Media Conference

Speaker: Lane Merrifield, Executive Vice President, Disney Online Studios

The Crucible, Sheffield and there’s a man in a crisp white shirt and black waistcoat! No snooker cue but exciting nevertheless (if you’re of a certain age).

More exciting though, whatever your age, was the news tonight that Disney are giving £3million to an initiative to help educate kids and families about staying safe online. Working with partners such as Childnet, the initiative will span the next three years, teaching children to become responsible digital citizens, empowering them to make the right decisions online, tap into their natural curiosity and foster a love of learning.

The theme of this year’s keynote, and conference is Keeping Ahead of The Game. This fund looks like it will certainly help UK kids stay ahead of the game and Lane Merrifield had plenty of top tips for the rest of us. And along the way dispelled five myths about children online.

1. The Digital world has changed the fundamentals of play. NO. Kids have always loved unstructured play and using their imaginations. The old play patterns are just manifesting in a new way.

2. Kids are focussed on themselves. NO. It may look like they’re obsessed with X-Factor but are they really all singing along because they wanna be stars or do they just want to join in and belong? There is more evidence that children are empathising with others around the world – kids on Club Penguin spontaneously wearing red for Japan, commemorating 9/11 and taking part in the Annual Giving Event. Kids want to participate in a positive way that will help change the world.

3.Learning has to be structured. NO. The digital space opens up learning to be more dynamic, personal and tailored to an individual child’s learning and developmental needs. Like going for a walk where your conversation moves from one topic to another as the scenery changes.

4. Adults always know best. NO. If you’re trying to serve a child audience it’s worth remembering “If it doesn’t matter to an 8 year old, it doesn’t matter.”

5. Our responisbilities end with the digital experiences we create. NO. The wonders of the Internet mean nothing if it is not a safe place or children don’t know how to navigate it. Safety is essential and must be the highest priority. Hence the Disney initiative.

Someone did point out that kids are pretty media literate through schools and that maybe parents and teachers need educating. Lane agreed that parental education is key. But kids need to learn to make good choices themselves.

So a great start to the conference. A big and important announcement – someone is putting money in to something vital. Lane’s success story was inspirational and his top tips useful. The drinks in the foyer before hand were convivial, and the Crucible itself a great venue. And no one got snookered. Definitely a great start to the conference.

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