Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
What if I told you that the average 11-year-old has “adult skills when it comes to technology” and that young children have more technology skills than basic life skills?
In a recent study by Security Firm AVG, it was found that “58 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 5 can play a ‘basic’ computer game, but only 52 percent can ride a bike. And although 63 percent of kids can operate a computer, only 20 percent can ‘swim unaided’ and 11 percent can tie their shoelaces.”
With these statistics, one would hope that children are utilizing these technological skills to better themselves. Most, however, are social networking with friends and playing video games. But if these skills can be cultivated in the appropriate way, they could be a terrific opportunity for the advancement of citizenship. Specifically, children could cultivate a greater sense of citizenship by learning how to be responsible on the Internet, learning about civics, and engaging in civic life.
One organization in particular has been recognized by Facebook for its efforts to cultivate citizenship. Last month, a group of McGill University students were among the first recipients to receive a Digital Citizenship Research Grant. These graduate and post-graduate students created Define the Line–a website that educates students and teachers on Internet safety–in order to “enhance responsible digital citizenship.”
Another organization, iCivics, provides children the opportunity to learn and utilize specific civics skills while playing a wide assortment of video games. These opportunities range from running the country to managing a presidential campaign to being a Supreme Court Justice.
Joseph Kahne, director of the Civic Engagement Research Group at Mills College, thinks that even games that are not specifically civics-oriented can still encourage civic and political engagement because they facilitate democratic community interactions. In a 2009 report on the Civic Potential of Video Games, Kahne and his colleagues Ellen Middaugh and Chris Evans note that “Teens who have civic gaming experiences, such as helping or guiding other players, organizing or managing guilds, playing games that stimulate government processes, or playing games that deal with social or moral issues, report much higher levels of civic engagement than teens who do not have these kinds of experience.”
For the sake of our non-bike-riding, video-game playing children, we hope that’s the case.
Erika Davis is an intern with the AEI Program on American Citizenship. Interested in summer opportunities at AEI? Click here.