In the clouds, but with real people

In the clouds, but with real people

Generazione Cloud. Essere genitori ai tempi di smartphone e tablet (“Generazione Cloud. Being Parents at the time of Smartphones and Tablets”), Michele Facci; Serena Valorzi; Mauro Berti, Generazione Cloud, Edizioni Erickson, Trento 2013, pgs.137.

It’s not easy to write a book about education and the new technologies. Is it possible to add something new to what has already been said and written in recent years on the topic?

There is nevertheless a drive to further analyze the effect of the new technologies. Problems and opportunities stemming from human behavior in the digital sphere continue to evolve with new characteristics that in turn have a social and therefore educational impact of paramount importance.

The publisher Erickson, fruit of a research center in Trento, Italy that focuses on education, has recently published this text co-written by three authors: two specialists on the emotional and cognitive impact of new technologies and the superintendent of the Police of State. Various issues are addressed, such as digital identity, the educational role of the family, emotions and relationships in the digital era, new addictions, schools in the digital era, etc. The last chapter provides practical advice for education in this field.

The book develops from the premise that new technologies positively or negatively influence relationships. However there is a pre-requisite supported by numerous studies that is gradually becoming more important: the way of dialoguing, of opening ourselves up to others, of expressing one’s own intimacy, and the emotions learned by living in a family, are all projected onto other contexts, including the digital realm. In some cases, the new technologies cause family members to isolate themselves from the others to the point of becoming distanced from the people closest to them, while becoming closer to realities and people who apparently offer greater relational capacities but require more time and a certain maturity for the potential growth of relationships and content to translate into an effective personal enrichment. The way educators use technology and the actual time that parents dedicate to their children significantly determine the usage patterns of these new technologies. For example, the way educators manage their social network profiles, multitask, and navigate the Internet, are highly influential factors that are complemented by their friends’ lifestyles and closest social circles. Without a social educational basis, young people are educated on the streets…the “virtual” streets.

No one doubts the positive, enriching potentials of the new technologies. In time, however, educators have begun to detect usage tendencies and anthropological influences that reflect the limits of the human condition. The book synthetically and constructively analyzes a number of issues generated in recent years that require particular attention:

  • Cyber-relationship dependencies
  • Cybersex addictions

  • Net compulsion: pathological online gambling; compulsive online shopping or trading
  • Net gaming (MUD’s addiction): addiction to online video games
  • Information overload: overconsumption of cognitive or informative content

In addition to explaining certain concrete cases related to these dependencies and the dangers lingering in the digital sphere, the authors point out the importance of education in primary sociological fields, such as family and school, in order to really enhance the capacity that new technologies have in boosting personal growth and deepening social relationships, both online and offline.

The advice given to educators, parents, and adolescents is two-fold: 1. Create habits that deepen relationships so that the specific weight of the people and the relationship among them determines how to use these technologies. 2. Know how to “read” and interpret the reality and external behaviors of the people we must educate. Everything requires time- quality time, not scattered attention.

Among the text’s many advantages are its brevity and its simple and attractive language, even though it is written by specialists who address a broad public. It is worth noting as a limit that statistical data is only included in some sections of the book. Furthermore, certain educational suggestions or behavioral analyses are given without scientific backing, but the interesting references and substantial biography make up for it.

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