Meet the teens who make the digital world a nicer, sweeter place| Breaking News Updates

Meet the teens who make the digital world a nicer, sweeter place

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Experts say this lose-lose scenario is not inevitable, however. Our children’s relationship with technology, and technology itself, can change in ways that prioritize psychological well-being and ethical behavior.

Technology companies are currently devoting a lot of resources to improving the “user experience”, or the ease and convenience of using a device or application. HX wants us to also factor “the human experience” into all of our technology interactions, with a focus on how the technology makes us feel, said David Ball, senior director at Headstream, an innovation-driven program. on creating healthy and positive digital spaces and experiences. for teens.

“As technology became so integrated into our lives, we started to ask ourselves, ‘How does this impact our well-being? What is its impact on our ability to connect with people? “Policymakers, parents and young people increasingly understand that things could be different,” said Ball, who is also part of the HX team.

Why kids and teens need HX

Like many teens, Alexa Gwyn, now 19, said she can see how technology is helping and hurting her. She appreciates the opportunity to learn about any topic or connect with like-minded communities that previous generations would have been out of reach.

But how does technology encourage her and her peers to compare themselves and often damage their self-image? Or how he emboldens groups of individuals to “cancel” someone for a mistake? Or give the impression that the world is in constant crisis? It didn’t suit Gwyn.

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“It caused me a lot of anxiety and as a youngster you feel like you can’t do anything about it,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone about it because it didn’t really seem like a real problem when you compare it to all the horrible things that happen every day.”

Gwyn’s frustration with technology led to her involvement in 2017 with Headstream while in high school in Palo Alto, California. Now an undergraduate student at Vassar College, she still works with the program as a youth team leader, finding ways to feel better in digital spaces, and for digital spaces to help people feel better. feel better – “digital wellness” as it’s called.

Ameen Berjis, 15, went through a similar process. He noticed that his friends at his high school in Oakland, Calif. Felt addicted to social media and video games, and for a while he couldn’t stay away from games.
Ameen Berjis, 15, a high school student in Oakland, Calif., Is working on an app that matches adult mentors with mentees under the age of 18.

“I see them going down a path of addiction, and they can’t stop marching,” he said. He knew digital life was inevitable, but wondered if it could take a different form to hold onto what kids love about it and get rid of what makes them feel so bad.

He’s now working on an app called Inspyre that matches adult mentors with mentees under the age of 18 in any field, an idea that has earned him a spot on Headstream’s incubation program.

What can we do today

Families can encourage a better human experience for children by moving away from the conversation about quantity and establishing quality, said Mimi Ito, director of the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California at Irvine and co-founder of Connected Camps. , which is also part of HX. There are a number of questions parents can ask themselves to determine if their child – and every child is different – is experiencing quality.

“Are your children able to achieve their learning goals, or their social goals, or their healthy relationships with their peers (in their life in general)? Does technology support these things? ” she said.

If, for example, a child enjoys games, adults should think about what games they are playing and how that supports their academic development. Are these simple, mind-numbing games played alone on a phone? Or more complex games that involve storytelling, coding, or working with others?

For kids who spend time on social media, help them think about what they’re getting out of it. Stress and shame? Or are they learning to connect and present themselves in the digital space, which will benefit them right down the line?

“If you reorient yourself in this way, you can get tech support to do these great things that we want kids to do, rather than thinking that your role as a parent is to watch them and limit them.” , Ito said, adding that too much online time control can hamper children’s ability to learn to self-regulate. She recommends that parents allow children to start exploring by setting their own limits around age 10.

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The less adults play computer cops, the more open children will be to discuss the issues they face with their digital lives, she said. “If children think parents are just going to judge and think everything is wrong, then they won’t bring their problems to you. But once trust is established, parents can develop solutions with their children.”

Ball encourages parents to experience technology alongside their children. Start young so they can build that trust. “It can be like playing games together and seeing what defeat looks like in the play space, or browsing photos or creating an avatar together,” he said.

Either way, “make technology part of the relationship you have and don’t make it a secret thing.”

Gwyn also wants children to talk more about their human experience in school.

Teachers could explain how big app makers make their money and how apps work. They could also teach students how to navigate some of the complexities of living online.

“Educate them that they can have agency and control over their digital lives, and that they can prevent and circumvent issues,” she said.

Towards a more human-centered future

Families cannot do it themselves.

“These digital platforms play a huge role in civic life,” Ito said. “We have to recognize that this is a shared responsibility.”

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Policymakers and app makers could do more to create more positive experiences online which she says are now mostly public spaces. There could be more control over negative content online, she said, an issue that particularly affects the human experience of minorities.

“Black youth are much more likely to encounter harmful and hateful content online,” she said.

A more positive online experience wouldn’t just mean less bad stuff, Hall said. He would like to see more options for users to turn an online business into an offline business. If someone shares a post supporting the fight against the climate crisis, they will be connected to local groups or activities with the same mission. One of her favorite social apps for young people is Novelly, which encourages young people to write about and connect with issues that interest them.

He would like to see mental health awareness options integrated into social media platforms, so those in need have access to a “trained and caring support network”. Also on her wishlist is creating avatar options that are more inclusive and reflect the diversity of human life.

Overall, a better human experience for children would be less passive and more active.

“We could go from consuming content, which is the common experience today, to creating content where you support someone and connect with them in a meaningful way,” he said.

Berjis would like to see a feature built into social media that would allow users to click on the context of the issue being discussed. He hopes this would help fight crop cancellation by preventing people from “basing their assumptions on that Tweet alone.”

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Gwyn believes change won’t happen until we start to make better use of a proven approach: conversation.

“Something that gives me hope for the future of tech isn’t necessarily a specific idea, but one that so many people now have the spark to want to make a difference and get involved. These conversations are born, they’re just beginning, and they’re things we’ve never talked about before, ”she said.

“But now that they are, we have realized that we are all going through the same things and want change. There is strength in unity.”

Take away food

  • Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to determining the value of time spent online
  • Enable children to develop self-regulatory skills when they are online
  • Go online with kids from a young age to help them navigate digital spaces
  • Encourage schools to talk about the emotional effects of digital life in the classroom
  • Encourage kids to find spaces online where they can connect, rather than comparing

Elissa Strauss is a regular contributor to CNN, where she writes on the politics and culture of parenthood.

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