The media was very busy this season warning parents about video games and social networking sites, claiming they would make your kids dumber or even turn them into sociopaths. It was a breath of fresh air, then, to receive a copy of a media release from the MacArthur Foundation announcing the results of a massive four year study of the effects of technology on teenagers. The Berkley authors conclude that engaging with a wide range of technology, including web content, social networking sites, cell phones, and video games, is of crucial importance in healthy teenage development. Teens who use more technology than their counterparts faired better in the job market and in social circles.
The tendancy to blame new media for corrupting the youth is as old as the printing press. Neil Postman’s anti-technology books Amusing Ourselves to Death, and Technopoly seem quaint in comparison to Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur. I’m reminded of the lyrics to the Dylan song Ballad of a Thin Man: “… something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Keen?”. Read more of my commentary in Browse and Get Smarter.