Growing up on the Internet

I first used a computer when I was about five years old and my usage was supervised and restricted by my parents. I was not allowed on the internet, nor did I have much interest in it at the time. I used the computer to play the few (educational) games my parents bought me. Thinking back now, I realize that these games were crudely designed and worked extremely slow compared to contemporary video and computer games. But at the time, they seemed like magic to me. As a child, I could not understand how pictures, sounds, and entire games could fit in a little disk. I didn’t recognize the difference between a physical computer disk and the media which was on it.

I imagine that my reaction to CD games would be quite different if I were an adult at the time. While it may have been relatively new to everyone, my age and mental capacity meant that I had a distinctly different experience of this new media. I also had no memory of a world without that technology, the way adults would have. As far as I was concerned, computers were just a fact of life. In a way, they weren’t anymore new to me than anything else in the world. Gitleman and Pilgree note that new media must be considered in its historical context. I think this is true on a personal level as well. We cannot analyze our experiences with new media without considering the context we experience them in. Our age, beliefs, or culture all affect how we interact with new media. Everyone experiences new media in a personalized and distinct way.

When I first began using the internet was when I began to experience a distinct sense that what I was using was “new” and that it was a change from the past. I began playing interactive computer games which allowed me to communicate and play with other users. While I used to see the computer as an object isolated from the rest of the world, I now understood that it could actually be a way of communicating and connecting with people. And unlike the telephone, you could connect with a large number of people. It was my first experience of what you could call “social media.” Never before had I been connected with a group of people, without knowing them or seeing them face to face. New media changes how we think about human interaction and communication. This is especially true for children who are still forming their social selves. Having grown up with the internet, our generation learned about human interaction in a way that was different than any other generation before. The rules were different. It was quite easy (and potentially dangerous) to develop a friendship with someone you had never met before. Gintleman and Pilgree state that while new media has potential, it also carries an amount of risk. I had online friends as a child, but I was acutely aware of the risks involved. Growing up with the internet meant that I had to be protected from a whole new set of dangers. I think this greatly affected how I thought about strangers and friends. I think the social development of children can change dramatically with the introduction of a new media form. Each generation experiences different forms of media at different times in their life. The new media they experience in their youth can greatly shape who they become.

Meghana Madhavan

Discussion Questions:

1. How does age or generation shape our reactions to new media? Are younger generations more open to new media than older ones?
2. Can children be adversely affected by new media? Should we encourage or discourage new media usage among young children?

Link: This article takes an interesting look at some of the more subtle effects that social media can have on kids and their friendships



  1. In response to question 1: I think that younger generations are much more open to new media. Those of us in Generation Y haven’t really experienced a world without it. Although we don’t really know how it works, we accept and use new media on a daily basis. I was trying to explain what “the cloud” was to my father (born in 1946). I could kind of describe what it was, but I couldn’t explain how it worked. He was shocked that I would trust information, personal or not, to an ‘entity’ that I didn’t understand. So I decided to educate myself with this video.

    1. I think its definetly true that our generation accepts new media more readily, without questioning its implications. This can be both a good and bad thing. It helps us adapt to change and use new media efficiently, but it also blinds us to the possible consequences of what we’re using. We don’t always consider the negative implications of new media and sometimes we can use it recklessly

  2. I completely agree with both of you that the younger generations are much more open to using new media. We haven’t really experienced what it’s like to live without it. I can hear my dad telling me stories of “what it used to be like” as we speak. What I think is most interesting is the fact you bring up that we don’t know how new media works, but we just accept it. Like the video that Professor Dougherty posted for class today (How the Internet Works by Titus), he mentions that by viewing the video, we are already in the top 10% of people who understand how the Internet works. Although I fall victim to not understanding how the Internet works (until now), it’s shocking how true Titus’ statement might be because the facts he presents are so basic.

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