Veneschia Rachelle Bryant, Fielding's School of Educational Leadership & Change
The 21st century has allowed for endless possibilities in the areas of technology and technological innovations. Access is unlimited and society as a whole is benefiting from the abundance and availability, from private sectors to public. This access is truly tremendous as it continues to make many advances in areas such as medicine and education, but to whom much is given, much is required. This technological access has also been provided to 21st century youth and they are often seen using some type of digital device: cell phone, tablets, computers and eReaders. As the beneficiaries of 21st century devices, youth should be required to be reliable, responsible, and to use critical thinking when it comes to their digital devices, activities, and decisions.
Access to technology often times means access to the Internet. Youth are using devices for more than the initial purposes; for example, cell phones are not just for having audio conversations, but also for texting, accessing the Internet, posting on social media sites and even inappropriate acts like sexting. This research looked at the type of access 21st century youth are exposed to, analyzed the types of digital devices they have access to, and then explored the types of activities in which they engage. It looked at which devices they use to access the Internet, what they are doing when they are engaged on the Internet, and finally what types of digital decisions youth make with their digital devices. Having access is not always considered atrocious, but what youth do with this access is important to consider.
In addition to analyzing the digital devices, activities, and decisions of youth, this research looked at parental perspectives to determine if parents, who are probably the key people who provide the access to the youth, have some awareness about their children’s digital decisions. Youth and parents were given the same instruments and each participant was required to complete three surveys and one questionnaire. The results were first used to gain an understanding of and analyze the digital devices, activities, and decisions of youth who participated in the research and then to compare their responses with those of the parents to determine parental perspectives of the digital devices, activities, and decisions of their children to determine if parents know what is going on online.
Sometimes the online or digital world can be the private playground of youth and they may engage in events that are inappropriate or illegal. Although this research is analyzing the digital decisions of youth who may not be using critical thinking skills online, it is important to note that there are several youth who are innocently using their digital devices for the right purposes, but it is important for parents to check in or understand what is available, what dangers are lurking, and what their children are possibly doing in online or digital environments. The results of this research will be used as baseline data to determine what efforts need to be done to educate youth and parents on this issue. A series of webinars, articles, and books will be generated from this research that will focus on digital and online issues that youth face, such as cyberbullying, sexting, social media, and communicating with strangers online. These resources will be used to educate parents on what to look for and how to talk to their children, as well as to teach youth how to be cyber safe and use critical thinking skills in a digital era.
Key words: twenty-first century youth, internet safety, cyber safety, critical thinking skills, experiential learning, choice theory, parental perspectives, digital decisions an