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Contemporary Youth and the Postmodern Adventure - page 11 / 16





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Yet, there is also the danger that youth will become excessively immersed in a glittering world of high-tech experience and lose its social connectedness and ability to communicate and relate concretely to other people. Statistics suggest that more and more sectors of youth are able to access cyberspace and that college students with Internet accounts are spending as much as four hours a day in the seductive realm of technological experience. The media, however, has been generating a moral panic concerning allegedly growing dangers in cyberspace with sensationalistic stories of young boys and girls lured into dangerous sex or running away, endless accounts of how pornography on the Internet is proliferating, and the publicizing of calls for increasing control, censorship, and surveillance of communication -- usually by politicians who are computer illiterate.

To be sure, there are perils in cyberspace as well as elsewhere, but the threats to adolescents are significantly higher through the danger of family violence and abuse than seduction by strangers on the Internet. And while there is a flourishing trade in pornography on the Internet, this material has become increasingly available in a variety of venues from the local video shop to the newspaper stand, so it seems unfair to demonize cyberculture. Indeed, attempts at Internet censorship are part of the attack on youth which would circumscribe their rights to obtain entertainment and information, and create their own subcultures. Devices like the V-chip that would exclude sex and violence on television, or block computer access to objectionable material, is more an expression of adult hysteria and moral panic than genuine dangers to youth which certainly exist but much more strikingly in the real world than in the sphere of hyperreality.

Yet there is no doubt that the cyberspace of computer worlds contains as much banality and stupidity as real life and one can waste much time in useless activity. But compared to the bleak and violent urban worlds portrayed in rap music and youth films like Kids, the technological worlds are havens of information, entertainment, interaction, and connection where youth can gain valuable skills, knowledge, and power necessary to survive the postmodern adventure. Youth can create more multiple and flexible selves in cyberspace as well as alternative subcultures and communities. Indeed, it is exciting to cruise the Internet and to discover how many interesting Web sites that young people and others have established, often containing valuable educational material. There is, of course, the danger that corporate and commercial interests will come to colonize the Internet, but it is likely that there will continue to be spaces where individuals can empower themselves and create their own communities and identities. A main challenge for youth (and others) is to learn to use the computer and information technology for positive cultural and political projects, rather than just entertainment and passive consumption.

Reflecting on the growing social importance of emerging technologies and cultural sites makes it clear that it is of essential importance for youth today to gain various kinds of literacy to empower themselves for the emerging cybersociety. To survive in a postmodern world, individuals of all ages need to gain skills of media and computer literacy to enable themselves to negotiate the overload of media images and spectacles. We all need to learn technological skills to use the multimedia and computer technologies to subsist in the emerging high-tech economy and


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