You are on page 1of 14

NATIONAL FORUM OF APPLIED EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH JOURNAL VOLUME 25, NUMBERS 1 & 2, 2011-2012

The Negative Side of Technology and Social Influence on Children Callum B. Johnston, Ph D
Louisiana State University Alexandria

Donna LaCaze, PhD


Southeastern Louisiana University _____________________________________________________________
ABSTRACT A serious problem facing schools today is the increasing level of technology and the negative and social influence it has on children. It is essential for schools to anticipate and be prepared for cyber bullying and other negative ways that technology is affecting our youth. In this article, we discuss ways to identify these social factors and what educators can do to combat this type of negativity. _______________________________________________________________________ _ The landscape for the social development of a child has dramatically changed over the past few decades, heavily influenced by the changing dynamic of family structure and the advent of technology. Where once it was the family who could be relied upon to act as a filter for their children, determining what was and was not appropriate in terms of interpersonal relationships and the belief systems that accompanied those relationships, the filter is not so well defined today. Who or what is it today that protects children from exploitive commercialism and cyber bullying? What is the role of educators in this?

The Changing American Family In American society the structure of the family has evolved from a traditionally nuclear structure to one that Elkind (1994) describes as postmodern. The nuclear family structure consisted of two parents and at least one biological child from those parents. In the nuclear family it was the father who went to work while the mother stayed home, raised the children, and took care of the household chores. The parents were married prior 44

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE to their childs birth, and all the parental and marital tasks and responsibilities were performed by those parents (ibid). Todays postmodern family is much more difficult to define since it has many structures. The postmodern family could be composed of children being raised by two parents in the workforce, multigenerational parents (grandparents), single mothers, single fathers, or same-sexed partners, amongst other structures. There really are no rules as to what constitutes a postmodern family except that it is different in its structure than the once traditional nuclear family. Family compositions are a partial result of the sociopolitical movements of the 1960s and the 1970s that demanded recognition for individuals and the diversity of values and beliefs. By the 1960s the many demands for the recognition and legitimization of human diversity by minorities, women, and gays, among others challenged the idea that only one kind of kinship structure was suited to the function of meeting the emotional needs of family members. The postmodern permeable family includes not one but many different relationship patterns, (ibid, p. 31). Changes in the American economy have in many instances demanded that two parents must work to meet the financial needs of the family. The fastest growing group of women entering the workforce are those who have children under the age of six (Kostelnik, Whiren, Stein, & Soderman, 1998). As more and more women go to work, their children are being placed into child care arrangements on a more frequent basis. Sixty-five percent of mothers with children under 6 and 79% of mothers with children between the ages of 6 and 13 are working (CDF, 2005). As a result, today, 3 out of 5 children, or 13 million preschoolers, including six million infants and toddlers, are in daycare (Charlesworth, 2008). Because of the work-force demands that face so many parents today, the amount of time available for personal interaction between parent and child appeared to diminish until the latter part of the 1990s (Elkind, 1994; Kostelnik, et al). It is quite possible today that many children from infancy on will actually spend more time with someone outside the family, or other adults, than with their own parents (Charlesworth, 2008). And as more and more children find themselves outside the family during the day, whether in daycare or in school, it becomes apparent that there are more and more opportunities for socialization with others outside the family as well. Children will be interacting on a regular basis with other adults teachers and paraprofessionals, directors of daycares, possibly principals and assistant principals, support staff as well as with other children. Additionally, it is possible that more and more children will have access to technology, including cell phones and lap tops, that allow them to communicate not only with their working parents but with other people during the hours that they are outside the home. Those individuals with whom children are in frequent communication, whether through face to face interactions or through technology, will all have some influence on the social development of children, depending upon the frequency of occurrence and the amount of time spent in those social interactions. While we would expect that professionals working in early childhood settings would refrain from imposing values and beliefs upon children that are not congruent with those childrens families, we have no assurance that this will be the case when other people use technology to communicate with children, whether the communication comes through the internet or through cell phone technology. 45

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE Bronfenbrenners Social Systems Urie Bronfenbrenners work in explaining human development in the context of ecological systems has benefited those who study the human condition as it relates to a myriad of social influences. Richard Lerner (Bronfenbrenner, 2005) writes, Bronfenbrenner argued that engagement with social policy not only enhances developmental research but also augments understanding of key theoretical issues pertinent to the nature of person-context relations, (p. xii). Bronfenbrenner has identified a series of social systems nested within each other that exist in the ecology of human development and which are pertinent to the social development of every person. These systems are the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem. Understanding Bronfenbrenners model of human ecological systems is important as it enables us to put into perspective the potential for technologys influence on the social development of children. Microsystem The microsystem is, a pattern of activities, social roles, and interpersonal relations experienced by the developing person in a given face-to-face setting with particular physical, social, and symbolic features that invite, permit, or inhibit engagement in sustained, progressively more complex interaction with, and activity in, the immediate environment, (p. xvii). In short, any person with whom a child engages socially on a day to day basis is a part of that childs microsystem. Bronfenbrenner expanded his definition of the microsystem to include the interactions that a person has with symbols and language (ibid, p. xvii). Bronfenbrenner further defined the microsystem with this addition in 1979: and containing other persons with distinctive characteristics of temperament, personality, and systems of belief, (Bronfenbrenner, 1992, in Bronfenbrenner, 2005, p. 148). A childs microsystem would include the childs mother because there are daily interpersonal activities that they each experience with each other, thus contributing to both persons social development. The same can be said for the childs teacher, the childs siblings, the childs father, and any individual with whom the child interacts on a daily basis. Each of those individuals is a microsystem of the child. Mesosystem The mesosystem is characterized as, the linkages and processes taking place between two or more settings containing the developing person (e.g., the relations between home and school, school and workplace). In other words, a mesosystem is a system of microsystems, (ibid, p. 148). To clarify, a developing person, the child for example, will know different people in different settings, such as the mother in the home setting and the teacher in the school setting. The established relationship between the mother and the teacher is a portion of that childs mesosystem. If the child includes as a microsystem his or her fathers boss, meaning that the child personally knows and interacts with that boss on a regular basis, then the established relationship between the childs father and the fathers boss is a portion of that childs mesosystem. Should the 46

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE boss and the childs teacher know each other, then that relationship is also a portion of the childs mesosystem. Exosystem The exosystem is that system that, encompasses the linkage and processes taking place between two or more settings, at least one of which does not ordinarily contain the developing person, but in which events occur that influence processes within the immediate setting that does contain that person (e.g., for a child, the relation between the home and the parents workplace; for a parent, the relation between the school and the neighborhood group), (ibid., p. 148). The fathers office, and the persons and activities that occur in that office, would be one component of the childs exosystem. Macrosystem The macrosystem is a system of values and ideals and morals and beliefs. Bronfenbrenner defined it this way: The microsystem consists of the overarching pattern of micro-, meso-, and exosystems characteristic of a given culture, subculture, or other broader social context, with particular reference to the developmentally instigative belief systems, resources, hazards, lifestyles, opportunity structures, life course options, and patterns of social interchange that are embedded in each of these systems. The macrosystem may be thought of as a societal blueprint for a particular culture, subculture, or other broader social context, (ibid., p. 150). In defining the macrosystem, Bronfenbrenner describes two context-oriented definitions of person characteristics which have impact on the macrosystem, both of which are rooted in Vygotskys theory of sociohistorical evolution (ibid, p. 149). One depends upon the options that are available in a persons environment at a given point in time; the other is a persons systems of belief, or developmentally instigative personal characteristics. These belief systems influence the development of individuals within cultures and subcultures, and are themselves influenced over time by individuals within those cultures and subcultures. Parents will draw their values and beliefs and morals from their parents, their heritage, their communities, their cultures and subcultures, and will in turn pass these on to their children. Parents will be the first influences of moral and ethical development for the developing child, as well as the first influences on the development of belief systems for the developing child, because they are the ones, usually, who are in nearest proximity to the child for the longest periods of time in the childs most formative years of development. No doubt there are other microsystem influences on the child. Siblings and relatives living in the childs home are examples. But it is the childs parents who, through their earliest social interactions with the child, establish the foundation for the young childs social development. This foundation will act as a blueprint for what is socially acceptable and what is not in terms of relationships, values, morals, responsibilities and ethics, defined within the family first, then extending outward to the community. Chronosystem 47

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE Finally, Bronfenbrenner identified a fifth system, the chronosystem (ibid.). Development itself implies change over time, and for Bronfenbrenner this means that as social conditions, beliefs, and physical development change over time, so do the influences on the social development of the person change. As these changes occur, the influence of the developing person on each of the aforementioned systems changes as well. It is a constant dynamic, never static, as time itself never comes to a complete halt. People age. Environments themselves age and change. New knowledge is constructed from older knowledge; new models of technology are developed from older models. Belief systems, morals, values, and ethics all of these change over time. What was socially unacceptable for one generation may be acceptable today, and vice versa. And as the American family has morphed itself into a post-modern construct of non-traditional relationships and roles, these systems have undergone tremendous social and cultural revision. Is Technology the New Microsystem? People do not develop socially based only upon the face-to-face contacts they establish. They are social compositions of a myriad of socio-environmental influences, beginning with the parents and other family members and extending ultimately into the world. Values and beliefs are handed down to them from previous familial generations. Social and cultural influences external to peoples families now reach them through the wonders of computer and cell phone technology, as well as through the more common vehicles of social influence, including printed media, radio, and environmental advertising. As parents today find themselves away from their children more frequently, mainly out of economic necessity, more opportunities have arisen from the exosystem and macrosystem to influence childrens social development. Technology has made this possible. No longer must information loaded with values and belief systems pass through a filtering process of generational approval from parent to parent, guardian to guardian, tempered by ones culture and society. Today, thanks to modern technology, values and beliefs that people outside ones family wish to impose on young people reach our children unfiltered, or raw. Elkind points to post modernism itself as an example of this permeation. The walls of the modern family, undermined by unhappiness within and besieged from without by social forces beyond its control, eventually gave way. The prevalent influence of television, the clashes of the civil rights movement, the revolution in sexual mores, the rise of a drug culture among middle class youth, the disillusionment of Vietnam and Watergate, the growth of telecommunications and computers, and many other social developments all helped to overturn established relationships between the generations and to introduce new discourses that have come to be known as post modernism, (Elkind, 1994, p. 7-8). While Elkind is describing the influence of television and technology on the social thinking of Americans, he makes the point that forces outside of the family are more easily able to penetrate the protective barriers against social ideologies that differ in values and morals from those established by the family. It is easier to reach individual 48

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE family members through the long distance reach of technology, in essence, to establish new microsystems of social influence. At the schools and daycare centers, adults who are in charge of caring and learning for the children, i.e., teachers, paraprofessionals, directors and/or principals, would be the filtering agents of social interaction for the child. As professionals each of these individuals act in loco parentis. Each has the social responsibility to protect children from what would be deemed as improper or even harmful in terms of social development. Prior to the development of television, computers, and cell phones (what will collectively be described as informational technology henceforth) it was tough for anyone outside the school environment to gain access to children while they were in school because of the protective nature of most school personnel, although clear social access to the child was available by and through the childs classmates and peers. These social contacts allowed indirect social influence on the child from the families and friends of the childs peers and classmates. For the most part however, friends and classmates tend to have the same societal values since they all tend to learn and live in the same community. Today, thanks to informational technology, the social influences coming from the mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem can reach the child without ever having to go through the family or through professional microsystems such as child professionals in the school or day care centers. The ability of the family to filter out unwanted social messages has been greatly diminished because of the technology and because of the parents post-modern roles and responsibilities which tend to lessen their ability to screen what their children are viewing or with whom they are communicating. Perfect strangers have the potential to use this technology as a tool for social influence and behavior, and they do. Technology itself, with its social messages bombarding children from every system in Bronfenbrenners human ecological model, originating from as close as next door to as far as the other side of the world, has become the new microsystem. Marketing to Children Using Technology Informational technology has changed the game in the arena of social interaction for young children, and while there are countless benefits associated with these technologies, there are those who will use it for commercial gain and to satisfy personal agendas. In former years, prior to computer technology being pretty much a fixture in most American teens lives, social access to children outside of the childrens families was pretty much limited to televisions, telephones, telegraphs, letters and postcards, and face-to-face encounters at such social arenas as school and playgrounds. Environmental print, a mainstay throughout the vast majority of human history, seeks to communicate with people (highway signs, store-front signs, neon signs, graffiti) and as such was, and remains, a form of social interaction and access. Other than environmental print, parents in pre-home-computer days were pretty much able to control social access to their children, to better monitor their childrens social interactions. Prior to cable and satellite television, most television sets could only tune 3 or 4 stations so it was easy to know what the children were watching on any given night. When the phone rang the whole house generally knew who was on the other end. It was not difficult for parents to know 49

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE who sent letters to their children, and to whom children were writing since stamps were needed to stick on the envelopes. Families had controls in place that acted as filters for the types of social interactions that children were having. Would a parent allow a complete stranger to attempt to sell something to his or her daughter or son outside the home? Would it be ethical for a complete stranger to try to persuade an impressive young person to purchase products without parental consent? Placing toys in cereal boxes was a prominent way to encourage children to get their parents to purchase cereal and to help children bond with that product. But parents knew about the promotional tactic even if they did not understand the psychology behind it and were able to make choices as to whether or not their children should have that cereal. The toy was the seductive object being used to sell the product. And marketers targeted the wants and desires of children to get them to coerce their parents into purchasing their products and to create a consumer culture for their products, such that when these children grew to adulthood they would then purchase those same products for their children. But the cereal was located in a store, an environment that is especially designed for selling products to people and thus parents could expect themselves and their children to be marketed to by various companies promoting their products. As they do today, parents chose to go into these places. They voluntarily (usually) brought their children with them and exposed them to this commerce. Children today are able to go online and join social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace, both highly successful and entertaining sites for people who wish to interact with others, whether they are next door, down the street, or across the world. In a survey of 935 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 conducted in 2006, it is reported that 93% of teens are online (Lenhart, Amanda & Madden, Mary, 2007). The authors also report that not only are more teens online today than ever before, but they are online more frequently. Of the 93% of teens online, more than half, or 55%, belong to social networking sites (ibid., p. 11). Thanks to modern technology, children today are more vulnerable to exploitation from people outside the family - total strangers - and businesses than ever before. The Twelfth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends, 2008-2009 (Molnar, Boninger, Wilkinson, Fogarty, 2009) offers a disturbing look into the mindset of commercial marketing and the targeting of children. Through technology and the use of 360 advertising (identifying a target group of consumers for a particular product and who are receptive to a particular message, then surrounding them with that message using a variety of media) marketers bombard young children with advertisements in order to sell their products. The marketing and advertising industries believe their future lies in digital marketing strategies. Conducted over computers, videogame consoles, handheld game players, and cellular telephones, digital strategies have become commonplace, (Molnar, et al., p. 7). Marketers are everywhere on the internet, promoting their products through social networking sites, virtual environments, and instant messaging systems. It isnt enough to just promote the product to the young consumer using a visual advertisement displayed on a website. Instead, tech-savvy marketers are using tracking software, such as cookies, beacons, and flash cookies, to track the kind of behaviors young children use while they are logged onto the internet and chat systems. As children engage with brands in each of their online activities, their behavior is monitored and data are collected to allow for subsequent targeting of advertisements, (ibid., p. 9). Cookies 50

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE are little pieces of code that are used to identify internet users to tracking companies by their computer. Beacons are more sophisticated than cookies in that they harvest text information being typed by the user. Flash cookies are used for such purposes as to maintain volume levels in Adobe flash applications, yet they also create cookies that alert tracking companies to user activity on the internet (Stecklow, 2010). A recent investigation by the Wall Street Journal (ibid) looked at the fifty most popular sites for children on the web, and found that tracking companies were tracking childrens online behavior at a 30% higher rate than they tracked adult websites. The information gleaned from this tracking is sold to advertising companies who then use it to target those children according to their personal interests. One example reported by the Wall Street Journal concerned the website Snazzyspace.com. When children click onto Snazzyspace.com, there are over 240 tracking tools ready to follow their every move and to report their online behavior and information to a tracking company. Products are not the only items being marketed to young children online. Ads promote values, use stories and morality to create consumer cultures for their products, and affect everything that is socially important in our lives, including the way in which we perceive our families, our relationships, our friendships, our environments, our society, and ourselves. Values that may be inconsistent with what parents want for their children are also being pedaled. Consider this excerpt from The Twelfth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends, 2008-2009: Children are taught by marketing messages that hypersexuality is normal and appropriate, that sexuality is a commodity that can and should be bought. Until this year, Scholastic, Inc., promoted the highly sexualized Bratz brand in its catalog and book fairs. Bratz dolls have distorted faces with huge, overly made-up lips and eyes, and their wardrobes feature such items as fishnet stockings and ultra-mini-skirts. According to Diane Levin, professor of education at Wheelock College and co-author of So Sexy, So Soon, the dolls teach girls to focus on appearance and fashion, to aspire to an eating-disordered body, and to play at being sexy before theyre even capable of understanding what sexy means. In September, Scholastic yielded to an 18-month-long letter-writing campaign spearheaded by Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and finally removed from their catalog Bratz books (such as Lil' Bratz Catwalk Cuties) and toys (such the Bratz Rock Angels computer game and the Bratz Fashion Designer stencil set). Of course, any child who wants to create her/his own Bratz character decorate a room, design fashions, take care of a pet and interact with other Bratz fans online can easily do so at the dolls online virtual world, http://bebratz.com/. This site is only one of hundreds geared to children. (ibid., p 7). Marketers are able to consistently access children without going through families using video games and cell phone technology also. They embed advertisements into the online games that children play and use cell phone technology to not only promote products, but to track consumer behavior and demographics (ibid., 2009). Children are online, they are gaming, and they are in possession of cell phones. They are prime targets 51

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE for marketers who capitalize on this behavior using modern technology. They do not go into the store to access the children; instead, they bring the store to the children and bombard them with their products, influencing the development of consumer behavior, social behavior, and social mores. And if the individual, or individuals, in charge of children are not aware of the childrens activities online, or are not given the authority to intervene into the childrens online activities, then access to those children by sources outside their existing microsystems is wide open. Cyber Bullying Another example of informational technologys ability to reach out and personally touch someone, and which is more disturbing than marketing directly to children, is the despicable act of cyber bullying. Bullying is not new in American society. It has been defined as, Child/adolescent aggression characterized by three primary and distinguishing features: (1) behavior with the intent of doing, (2) behavior repeated over time, and (3) behavior that occurs in an interpersonal context involving an imbalance of power, (Barboza, Schiamberg, Oehmke, Korzeniewski, Post, & Heraux, 2007, p. 102). Bullying can occur when people are ostracized from groups or singled out by groups (Cassidy, 2009). In other words, bullying can also be a group behavior or acts influenced by groups. Families with high levels of conflict and poor cohesiveness lend themselves to bullying behavior in children both in the home and at school (Duncan, 1999). When a marriage fails the psychological and behavioral strategies that an adult uses to provide protection for a specific child, known as the caregiving system, become damaged (Solomon, 2003, p. 33 in Charlesworth, p. 204). Victims of bullying report poorer family relations, less encouragement from parents, teachers, less effective problem solving strategies. Both bullies and victims tend to be rejected by their peers (Barboza, G., Schiamberg, L., Oehmke, J., Korzeniewski, S., Post, L., & Heraux, C., 2009). Bullying works on the self-esteem of an individual by calling into question his or her social identity (Cassidy, 2009). Around 18 months children differentiate themselves from others, recognizing in part that they have unique attributes which can be described in words (Kostelnik, Stein, Whiren, & Soderman, 1998). In their description of toddlers between the ages of 15 and 24 months, Curry and Johnson (1990) state that adults play a key role in a childs concept of self, especially in the application of words that target a childs character, such as good, loving, beautiful, bad, selfish, stubborn, to name a few examples. As such, it is more than likely the significant adults in a childs family who will have a tremendous initial influence on a childs perception of self. Perception of self, or self-concept, is constantly evolving, having its rudimentary beginnings in infancy and continuing throughout an individuals life (Kostelnik, et al, 1998). This perception of self is at least partially driven by a sense of worth, competence and control, three components of self-esteem (Kostelnik, et al, 1998; Curry & Johnson, 1990). It is within the family that a young child will establish the framework for self-esteem and efficacy through interactions with family members and objects, and through participation in various activities. These will be challenged and reinforced as the child grows older through social interactions with school mates and neighbors and participation in community activities 52

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE with peers. When a child is bullied, his or her perceived value by others is called into question, and can lead to self-doubts about his or her own worth. Yet warm, supportive families are capable of providing somewhat of a buffer to the negative effects of bullying (Bowes, Maughan, Caspi, Moffitt, & Arseneault, 2010. While bullying is not new in America (nor in other parts of the world), cyber bullying is a relatively new phenomenon that has reared its ugly head through the development of informational technology. People have a need to belong and to have relevance. They have a need to feel accepted by others (Kostelnik, et al, 1998). As was mentioned earlier, more than half of teens who are online belong to social networks in which they share information and chat with friends and oftentimes perfect strangers. Popularity is often reflected in the total number of friends one has accumulated on these sites, and Facebook is a good example of this. Both boys and girls use their perceptions of popularity to arrange themselves into cliques and varying strata within cliques (Adler, Kless, & Adler, 1992). When children are berated by their peers, or socially humiliated, it would seem natural that the first safe haven they would turn to for social support would be their families. However, it turns out that children who are victims of bullying often do not report to their families because they are ashamed of this (Cassidy, 2009). How much more likely is it that children will report such abuses to their parents from online social interactions than from face-to-face encounters within their familiar environments, i.e., the home, the neighborhood, and the schools? Bullying does occur while children are online. There are a couple of recent events that have propelled cyber bullying into the spotlight. One of the most brutal abuses of social networking technology occurred when a mother decided that she would spy on her daughters ex-best friend (Grohol, 2007). The mother gained the friendship of her daughters ex-best friend by disguising herself as a boy who had an interest in her, then mercilessly attacked the character of 13 year-old girl, telling her that she was essentially a non-wanted person and that the world would be a better place without her in it. So intense and hateful was this attack to the young girl that she ultimately took her own life. What is more sinister in this particular story is that the mother actually knew the young girl whom she chose to bully. As such, this is a case in which an adult took advantage of a child and essentially abused her socially and emotionally. Cyber-bullying has since become a part of the worlds technological vocabulary. So relatively knew was this form of abuse at the time of the mothers trial that the judge in the case ultimately dismissed the charges against the mother because there were no laws that existed on the books that she could have broken. More recently a young girl from Ireland took her life after moving to Massachusetts with her family, where she became involved with the popular high school football player and instantly brought the wrath of her fellow classmates. In addition to being bullied in school hallways and in the library, she was taunted and called names on such networking sites as Twitter, Facebook, and Craigslist. Threatening text messages were left on her cell phone (Kennedy, 2010). After the young teen took her life, the menacing messages continued on a Facebook page originally set up to memorialize her. Bullying in the above cases has been taken to a new level. It is apparent that bullies, regardless of their age, can reach out and touch children through technology. In both instances above, bullies were able to penetrate the families protective social barriers by utilizing technology that bypassed parental scrutiny to target their victims. And while 53

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE there exist certain social behaviors that can mark children as targets for bullying or set them up to be bullies themselves in everyday face-to-face encounters, (Barboza, et al. 2009; Cassidy 2009; Gentile & Walsh 2002), the fact that total strangers can and do verbally brutalize, humiliate, and berate others through the use of online technology to the point of becoming cyber bullies is a real threat to the healthy social development of our children today. What Can Educators and People Who Work With Children and Families Do? Informational technology is here to stay. And it is welcomed when it is used responsibly. As family members are finding themselves more apart than together for the main portion of the day, for whatever reason, technology is a great way for them to be able to contact and stay in touch with each other. Children are going to be coming face to face with people outside the family, developing new microsystems that will influence their social development, which will hopefully be in line with what their parents hope for them in terms of values, ethics, and morality. Yet, for all the great and wonderful things that technology brings to us, the possibilities that it opens up for us, the incredible ways in which it helps us, there are those who use it for unethical and malevolent purposes. Companies are marketing directly to children, bombarding them with advertisements and messages to create a culture of consumer behavior without ever having to go through familial filters. Perfect strangers have used informational technology to become microsystems with children whom theyve never met, and may be gathering information on and clandestinely influencing them when it comes to consumer behaviors. Adults and children are able to enjoy the relative anonymity of information software to harass and to hurt others. And there are other scary issues that accompany this technology. Child exploitation by online predators is another example of the abuse that is taking place through the use of informational technology. So what is the role of educators and child professionals in all of this? We need to advocate for children and families, to listen to their concerns and to help bring these concerns to the attention of public officials to ensure that there are laws on the books with consequences for people who would harm others or exploit children through the use of informational technology. We need to educate ourselves as to what types of abuses against children are occurring online, and how they are occurring, and be able to recognize them when they do occur. When we can do this, we can educate families and raise their awareness of these abuses. We need to educate children about what is appropriate online behavior and what is not. Should there be instruction in online etiquette? We need to raise their awareness that everything they do online is being tracked by someone, somewhere, and that their privacy is constantly being compromised. We need to help families identify software safeguards that they can utilize to protect their children against unwanted messages when the parents or guardians are not available to help children screen these out. We can help families set up schedules for their childrens online use of computers and be able to gauge cell phone use. They can establish a call list which the children help 54

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE create such that only individuals/companies/agencies who are on that call list have access to the cell phones, and to provide some sort of guard against certain types of marketing that companies are capable of doing through cell phone technology. Cell phone software technology exists that allows parents to do this very thing and can be found, perhaps ironically, on the internet. Other Thoughts The intent of this article is not to scare, but to warn. The social development of children is being directly affected by people and events that come from the exosystem and the macrosystem, bypassing completely the human elements of the microsystem, specifically family members. The ability of the family to filter out these elements has been greatly challenged, since through the use of technology total strangers can now influence childrens social development in ways that before only people familiar to children and their families - microsystems to those children - were able to do. We cannot afford to have our children so precariously influenced if we want to have a world that reflects dignity and respect for all people. Marketers are readily using technology to influence the buying habits of children, such that when they become adults these habits will be passed onto their children. Is this ethical, especially when the parents are not involved? Think of a salesperson approaching your 8 year-old son or daughter in a store and leading him or her away to a private area, with no one else around, where the salesperson has the ability to deliver a sales pitch that will greatly influence the consumer behavior of the child, taking full advantage of a childs natural vulnerabilities to make informed choices without parental guidance. Again, is this ethical? Television is a major culprit in promoting insensitivity for the well being of others, a sentiment that is embraced and valued by companies and media who worry only about the dollar value of their products. The same can be said about video game companies and the violent software that they produce that teaches and encourages violence and aggression in social interactions. Much of this can be found translating to the online activities in which our children engage through the use of informational technology. The society in which our children live and learn is thoroughly inundated by technology that teaches our children to be hostile and aggressive, in-your-face, and just plain mean. Can anyone truly be surprised at the increase in cyber bullying? Could we not see this coming? Education and advocacy will go a long way towards eliminating the abuse of informational technology, especially when it comes to the welfare of our children. But we must be willing to educate ourselves as to how this abuse takes place, and to speak out when we do. References Adler P. Kless, S., &Adler, P. (1992). Socialization to gender roles: Popularity among elementary school boys and girls. Sociology of Education, 65(3), 169-87. Retrieved from http://www.asanet.org/journals/soe/index.cfm 55

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE Barboza, G., Schiamberg, L., Oehmke, J., Korzeniewski, S., Post, L., & Heraux, C., (2009). Individual characteristics and the multiple contexts of adolescent bullying: An ecological perspective. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 101-121. doi:
10.1007/s10964-008-9271-1

Bowes, L., Maughan, B., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T., & Arseneault, L. (2010). Families promote emotional and behavioral resilience to bullying: Evidence of an environmental effect. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51(7), 809817. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02216.x Bronfenbrenner, U. (1992). Ecological systems theory. In Bronfenbrenner, U. (ed). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. London, UK: Sage Publications. Bronfenbrenner, U. (ed) (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. London, UK: Sage Publications. Cassidy, T. (2009). Bullying and victimization in school Children: The role of social identity, problem-solving style, and family and school context. Social Psychology of Education: An International Journal, 12(1), 63-76. doi: 10.1007/s11218-0089066-y

Charlesworth, R. (2008). Understanding child development (7th ed.). New York, NY: Delmar Thomson. Childrens Defense Fund Issue Basics. (2005). Child care basics. Retrieved from http://www.childrensdefense.org/child-research-data-publications/data/child-carebasics.pdf Curry, N., & Johnson, C. (1990). Beyond self esteem: Developing a genuine sense of human value. Washington, D C: NAEYC. Duncan, R. D. (1999). Maltreatment by parents and peers: The relationship between child abuse, bully victimization, and psychological stress. Child Maltreatment, 4(1), 4555. doi: 10.1177/1077559599004001005 Elkind, D. (1994). Ties that stress: The new family imbalance. London, UK: Harvard University Press. Gentile, D., & Walsh, D. (2002). A normative study of family media habits. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 23(2), 157-178. doi:10.1016/S01933973(02)00102-8 Grohol, J. (2007). The power of deception online: The Megan Meier story. Retrieved from PsychCentral website: http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2007/11/15/the-power-of-deception-online/ Kennedy, H. (2010). Phoebe Prince, South Hadley High School's 'new girl,' driven to suicide by teenage cyber bullies. NY Daily News. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com Kostelnik, M., Stein, L., Whiren, A., & Soderman, A. (1993). Guiding childrens social development. New York, NY: Delmar. Lenhart, A., & Madden, M. (2007). Teens, privacy & online social networks: How teens manage their online identities and personal information in the age of MySpace. Washington, DC: Pew/Internet & American Life Project. Molnar, A., Boninger, F., Wilkinson, G., & Fogarty, J. (2009). Click: The Twelfth Annual Report on Schoolhouse Commercialism Trends: 2008-2009. Retrieved 56

CALLUM B. JOHNSTON and DONNA LACAZE from National Education Policy Center website: http://epicpolicy.org/publication/Schoolhouse-commercialism-2009 Mouratidis, A., & Sideridis, G. (2009). On social achievement goals: Their relations with peer acceptance, Classroom belongingness, and perceptions of loneliness. Journal of Experimental Education, 77(3), 285-307. doi: 10.3200/JEXE.77.3.285-308 Steel, E., & G. Fowler (2010, October 18). Facebook in privacy breach: Top-ranked applications transmit personal IDs, a journal investigation finds. Wall Street Journal, Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405270230477280457555848407523696 8.html?KEYWORDS=Facebook+in+privacy+breach Stecklow, S. (2010, September 17). On the web, children face intensive tracking. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870390430457549790352318714 6.html?KEYWORDS=On+the+web+children+face+intensive+tracking

57