The “Digital Decade” Has Changed Childhood Forever

by Robert Pondiscio
December 28th, 2009

Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, Wii and YouTube are among the innovations that have changed childhood – and parenting – for the better in the past decade.  And for the worst?  Grand Theft Auto, digital cheating, World of Warcraft, texting while driving and Webkinz.  So says Common Sense Media, which offers up a list of 20 innovations and entertainments that have “revolutionized how our kids communicate, create, learn, and play” for better and for worse.

 “Just about every child knows how to find just about anything by Googling,” CSM notes. “It’s opened the world to our children — sometimes bringing in too much, too soon — and parents found out it was up to them to teach their kids to surf safely and responsibly.” 

On digital cheating, Common Sense notes:  “Anonymity, ease, and lack of clear rules on right and wrong have made illegal downloading, plagiarizing, or texting answers to friends so “normal” that kids don’t realize that digital cheating is still cheating — and not OK.”

Also on the “10 Best” list:  Harry Potter, American Idol, TiVo, cell phones and iTunes.  Rounding out the worst list: The Bathroom Wall, Gossip Girl books, Superbad, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and celebutantes, and erectile dysfunction ads.  “No parent needs to discuss four-hour erections with any child, end of story,” says CSM.  “And certainly not after the third inning on a Saturday.”


  1. “American Idol” one of the 10 best? Seriously?

    My vote for that slot would be Netflix. No longer is our DVD selection limited to whatever our local Blockbuster and library have on hand.

    Comment by Crimson Wife — December 28, 2009 @ 5:42 pm

  2. Good call, CW. Not sure why American Idol makes the “best” list. It certainly qualifies as perhaps the last broadly shared common experience (perhaps along with the Super Bowl) in our culture. But that unique status is not enough to qualify it as a good thing. I’m with you on Netflix. If nothing it else, it ended the “Can we get cable?” discussion in our house.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — December 28, 2009 @ 5:51 pm

  3. So what’s wrong with Webkinz??

    Comment by Rachel — December 29, 2009 @ 12:15 am

  4. I’m guessing the problem with Webkinz is the “digital avarice” factor? The same thing that took down poor Tickle Me Elmo–the idea that kids need to collect critters, “kinzcash,” trading cards–and that Supplies Were Limited, so hurry out and buy, to keep your kid one step ahead of the Joneses.

    And I’m totally down on American Idol, which has done more to reinforce the idea that singers and their stylists create music (rather than songwriters or real people), and intimidate people who might enjoy singing (a fun, universal human activity) but fear they’re not “good enough.”

    I first noticed this teaching music to first graders. The little darlings were calling each other William Hung (the young Asian gentleman who sacrificed his dignity for fame on AI with his out-of-tune warbling). It was more than disconcerting to realize that 6-year olds, who normally love to sing, had picked up the idea that you shouldn’t foist your imperfect voice on others unless you were talented enough to be an American Idol. Singing is much more than just another competition. Sigh.

    Comment by Nancy Flanagan — December 30, 2009 @ 12:35 pm

  5. I’m with you, Nancy. While I tend to think that we go too far to take honest competition out of education, there’s something dispiriting about seeing embarrassment, humiliation and passing judgement as a staple of entertainment. American Idol emblematic of this, even if it’s one of the milder forms of the genre. It says a lot about us, not much of it good.

    Comment by Robert Pondiscio — December 30, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

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