Friday, September 19, 2014

Lessons from U2

I was syncing my iPad not terribly long ago when I saw a new U2 album in iTunes. To say I was befuddled would be a bit of an understatement.  Did I prebuy it and not remember? Did my wife buy it for me as a surprise gift? I had no idea, but I listened to it and liked it.

A couple days later, I realized everyone got the new album as a free download from Apple, and I couldn't help but to be appreciative. U2? For free? Why wouldn't I be elated!  Thank you, Apple!

That's why I couldn't believe that some people were unhappy about this awesome free gift. Apple actually had to create instructions on how to delete the album from playlists, and I scratched my head. Why?

And...there are other people who didn't like that Apple could just force content upon us.

This came up in conversation with my friend.  "It's a bit scary that Apple can send music to my daughter's device without my knowledge or consent." I never looked at it that way, either. Will Apple continue to give us free content or is this a one-shot deal? What will the next free download be? Will I want my daughter to hear it? As parents we want some oversight into the digital content our kids are consuming, and it is eyebrow-raising to know that Apple has that ability to push that out to our kids.

It's amazing to think what someone can do with some money and the right tools.

It took me around 14 hours to think of a reasonable response...commercials. As parents we can be very intentional about what we put in front of our children, but you can't control what commercials they see.  Whether it's a trailer for the next big Disney movie, an ad on an app my daughter likes to play, commercials I normally ignore during a football game, or a free U2 album,  it's hard to monitor everything.

Here is the lesson I take away from this story. Digital consumption is never really a plug and play event.

My parents taught me this lesson back in the Stone Ages when I listened to vinyl.  To them, any music that didn't involve four men in matching polyester suits singing about an old rugged cross was suspect in the worst way. Imagine their surprise when their teenage sons started liking music by long-haired men playing guitars and drum sets.  I found myself having to defend my music to my parents -- proving that while the style of music and clothing were different, the message was essentially the same thing.

Now, maybe your standards aren't quite what my parents' were. But, many of us in this edtech world talk about digital citizenship, and I think we can all agree that not all digital content is a beneficial for all digital consumers.

As media consumers we will never be able to have complete control over what flashes in front of our eyes or enters our eardrums. However, we owe it to the children in our charge (in our homes or our schools) to teach them how to evaluate what they see and hear.  Because Mommy and Daddy won't always be able to monitor it for them.

I think it's time I sit down and talk through some of these things with my kindergartner at home....

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