By Ezra Black
If you are over the age of 12, chances are you were a fully formed human in your first Facebook photo.
But for those of you born after February 4, 2004, when the social network site was founded, your first appearance on Facebook might have been a prenatal ultrasound image. Such is the nature of the digital immigrant versus digital native divide.
On Jan. 11, Anie Hepher, community librarian, led a discussion on the digital footprints of young children with a group of local parents at the Fernie Heritage Library. The group members all identified as digital immigrants, as opposed to the so-called digital natives, which is the generation of people born after the rise of digital technologies.
“Digital immigrants is what we’re considered,” said Hepher. “Digital natives know the language. They speak the language and it feels really comfortable to them. Digital immigrants on the other hand, you either love the country or you fear the country.”
They discussed ways to manage their kids’ online presence in a world full of smartphones, Facebook ultrasound images and memes (pronounced meems).
“I don’t want her to have full control,” said mother-of-two Terra Beck of her fourteen-year-old daughter.
They discussed their children’s smartphone usage.
“I worry about kids not being able to communicate,” said Beck. “If you can’t have a face-to-face conversation with another human being, that’s a problem.”
They also discussed David After Dentist, a YouTube video featuring a young child’s reaction to anaesthetic after a visit to an oral surgeon. The video stars seven-year-old David DeVore Jr. who was taken to the dentist to have an extra tooth removed. After the surgery, David was feeling the effects of the anaesthesia he was given.
In the car with his father videoing him, he was asking questions such as, “Is this real life?” and, “Is this going to be forever?”
David’s father uploaded the video to YouTube but did not notice there was a privacy option. It became one of the most watched YouTube videos of 2009.
Hepher then shared Common Sense Education’s online safety tips for parents, which recommend thinking long term, sharing smart and safe and listening to your children.
“Someday your preschoolers will grow up,” said one of the tips. “And they might not want documentation of their diaper days hanging out online for their friends to find.”
On Feb. 6, the Fernie Heritage Library in partnership with Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy and the Vogue Theatre will be showing the acclaimed documentary “Screenagers: Growing up in the Digital Age.”
The sobering 68-minute film explores the effects of excessive screen time on developing minds. Admission is free for the one-time screening. Doors open at 4:45 p.m. and the film starts at 5 p.m.
Hepher said the groups are organizing the screening to begin a conversation on how regular access to smartphones and tablets is affecting children.
“It’s meant to start a discussion in communities on screens,” she said. “And how we, as families and as people involved with kids and teens have conversations about any sort of screen in our lives.”
Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston interviewed a string of authors, psychologists and scientists for the film. Her findings reveal how screen time is impacting kids’ development and she offers solutions on how adults can empower children to best navigate the digital world and find balance.
“[Ruston] learned that the average kid spends 6.5 hours a day looking at screens,” the film’s website states. “She wondered about the impact of all this time and about the friction occurring in homes and schools around negotiating screen time—friction she knew all too well.”
Hepher said she hopes local parents, educators and anyone involved with kids and teens will attend the screening.
“I’m really excited about this,” said Hepher. “I think this is a discussion that should happen in every community and I’m really excited that we’re doing it. It’s going to open up some great things about how we communicate and [put in place] some boundaries.”