Cyberkids in Metropolitan America
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Children have learning and problem-solving powers at least equal to those of adults. But children are in general disempowered and treated as inferior to adults. The availability of home computers from around 1980, and of internet and e-mail facilities from around 1990, created a window of freedom for those children who were allowed unmonitored access to computers, e-mail and the internet. Children who learned computer skills while they were still children became more proficient at these skills than adults who only began to acquire the same skills as adults. For a period of time, scientists well advanced in such fields as physics and aeronautics had to rely upon adolescents to fill their programming needs. In addition, during the early days of home-computing, around 1980, computer-territory was still relatively rough and virgin. The internet was unknown, computer games were unknown, and anyone who entered computer territory had to learn programming in order to derive any benefits from this territory. By the late 1990's, commercial interests had gained a strong foothold in computer territory, and any child or adult with zero skills could enter this territory as a consumer and derive information and entertainment from this territory, without acquiring the kinds of skills necessary to exercise any degree of control over the computer-based landscape. Still, computer science remains a new frontier, in that any person who has the skills to act on this frontier may achieve success, regardless of that person's age, social status, et cetera. The two greatest barriers to success are limitations on access to computers and the internet, and English-language knowledge. The latter barrier is falling. Inasmuch as ability to navigate and alter the landscape of computer territory is a source of great power, and inasmuch as children acquire such skills more quickly than adults, may we consider a new empowerment of children to be in the offing? Or will adults co-opt the instruments of power, and will children remain as pets and slaves of adults for the indefinite future?
Key wordsyouth computers internet power utopias war games
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