On Monday I flew to Sydney to participate as a panellist on the ABC’s show “Difference of Opinion” hosted by Jeff McMullen. It was a fantastic opportunity to become involved in a discussion that was going to touch on the topic of cyber bullying. For those of you who’ve read my posts you’ll know that one of my motivations behind Destroying Avalon was to raise public awareness (particularly with regard to parents) about this issue. The topics up for discussion were incredibly broad:
‘How has the digital age shaped Generation Y?’
‘Is Generation Y desensitised, is there are growing culture of cruelty, are we normalising unacceptable behaviour?’
‘What is the future? What type of adults will Generation Y become?’
The discussion (as we said after the show) could have gone on for hours- but the show is only one hour. Anyone of the issues could have had an entire show based around it- the issues were far more involved and in-depth than the time allocated. But what it did do was generate opinion about a lot of issues that perhaps need further discussion.
The panel was made up of David Chalke- a statistican and social researcher, Kath Albury- an academic and researcher of sexuality in media and popular culture, Tim Brunero- a Sydney journalist and Big Brother constant, and me- listed as author and high school teacher.
Even though there was an overlapping of ideas, there were still differences of opinion stated. I did feel that perhaps a younger person was required to sit on the panel, Tim being the youngest and member of Generation Y- was still at the older end of that generation. And maybe the discussion might have benefitted from a younger perspective- someone who perhaps doesn’t work, is at school and is immersed in the digital technology.
There was a lot of participation from the audience- and a lot of them were definitely Generation Y. In fact the last guy to speak, a young guy (either still teens or early twenties would be my guess) made a really pertinent point about the lack of morality in a lot of images on the net. And how there is no one older there to advise and put it in perspective.
The show offers a message board for comments about the issues and the discussion, where the viewing public is invited to air their own opinion. When I first visited the message board I was surprised by the range of topics that were under discussion- including the ‘quality’ of the ‘experts’ on the panel. I guess (and this is naive of me) that the postings would be about the topics not a personal attack on the panellists! You can see the message board and ‘highlights’ from the show here at:
Here is my opportunity to redress some of the points that were made:
There was never any claim made that anyone of us was an expert in the field of “Generation Y”, in fact our “claims to fame” were stated by Jeff in his introduction. I certainly didn’t appear on the show purporting to be an expert on social constructs nor developing technology, I come from a background of teaching- with first hand experiences of what I see on a daily basis, coupled with the research I did for my novel and my experiences and fears as a parent of two Generation Yers.
What bothered me in the postings on the message board were the disdainful and scorning comments made about my qualifications. The angle I was coming from was that a generation gap exists between the older generations and Generation Y. This is typical of any new generation and the preceding ones, but my position is that this gap is the widest (and has the potential to widen at a fast rate because of the increasing technology). I do not blame Generation Y for this, in fact I blame the older generations for putting in place the scaffold of technology, handing it over without any rules or regulations, and then throwing their hands in despair when the “darker side” is revealed.
On the message board I have been taken to task over a gaffe I made. I was discussing how the older generation is disconnected from generation Y because we fail to understand the technology. My point being that we must learn to understand what it is the kids are doing. To illustrate this point I said “parents don’t know the difference between an Ipod and a USB driver,” duh-da (that’s the negative sound from Family Feud). What I should have said is “USB drive”. What this led to (on the message board) was how “ignorant” and “hopeless” I was. The mistake I made, yep, I got it wrong- it is a drive, not a driver, I can handle that (and won’t make the mistake again) what surprised me was the vitriol with which the comments were made. I wasn’t the only one under attack, in fact the other panellists copped a couple of sharp ones too.
It goes to illustrate how the anonymity of the net allows people to be demeaning and insulting without any regard for the feelings of the other person. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I think the way we deliver it is what’s important.
What my mistake (unintentionally) shows, is actually the point I was making. We, the older generations, don’t have the same understanding of the technology that the kids do. we need to be better connected, we need to learn the technology in order to connect with our kids.
And that surprised me too. How ‘under attack’ the tone of the message board postings were. Like ‘get a clue’, which interestingly enough was what I was saying. I don’t hold Gen Y responsible for what negativity we are seeing- I hold the older generations responsible and think it is us that needs to take action.
Another interesting theme that emerged from the message board was the denial and rejection that there was any negative aspect to digital technology. In particular cyber bullying. The ideas were that because they (the person posting the message)had never had a first hand experience, or didn’t know of anyone who had it therefore didn’t exist. I was surprised by the close- minded and proprietorial approach to digital technology! A debate- or voicing of opinion- only achieves success if you are willing to listen. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon your viewpoint and assume another but it means you should be open to other ideas.
Having said that, all negativity aside, I enjoyed the experience (apart from two flights in twenty four hours!!) I really hope that the discussion can generate more ideas about the issues (and not the panellists) and solutions to the problems that so obviously exist.