There is no doubt that our children will grow up in a new world, one that is shaped by the bounderless information flow of digital media. And there is no point of shielding children from it [ the story says that there was once a fairy princess locked in a very tall tower with only one window at the top, and still that could not keep prince charming away. It only made her ignore the consequences of their encounter as she was naïve enough to do not even suspect why her dress became tighter and tighter every day….]
A recent article written by Anya Kamenetz for Fast Company: "A Is for App: How Smartphones, Handheld Computers Sparked an Educational Revolution", stresses the advantages beyond children's exposure to the new digitized tools of the 21st Century. The extensive coverage by Frontline in Digital Nation. details the new dangers and issues of our digitalization. And, what concerns me most, it is the fact that as our children do spend more and time in this virtual environment they start to look up to a new kind of role models. And it is not just the children, but us the parents as well. From sport players to teen idols we start to idealize their lives and turn them into heroes.
This transmutation process, i.e. from being a successful person to being to flawless hero, however is not a new one. The concept beyond contemporary PR strategy might finds its roots in the minstrel sung legends, but the minstrels were lucky enough to sing mostly about dead kings and knights - the not so flattering details of their lives already erased from memories. Or there were images built around the living leaders, such as the Virgin Queen , but Elizabeth I was able to control the information flow and rumors about lovers remained only rumors…Today's heroes and their PR employees are not so lucky though. First, most of them are still young, so they have a long way before them until we could erase their trespasses from our memories…Second, the digital information flow is impossible to control – though I think there are a few exceptions such as North Korea, but the situation there makes using the idiom "information flow" improper as well.
And this is how sport heroes such as Michael Phelps, Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods became PR nightmares from PR sensations. Their fault [I do not know- they are human after all] or ours for shaping them into our children's role models?
In my opinion the fault is mainly ours. We cannot shield our children from the virtual world, but we can still teach them to tell right from wrong. And we can teach them that you cannot look another human being in the eyes through the TV screen, nor can you judge his/her character based on his/her digital persona. And you can still find them real role models, humans in flesh and blood, there are some in each of our neighborhoods. I bet it. And flawless prince charming shall remain in fairytale land…where it can stay flawless and respect a marriage promise to a common girl even when their only witnesses were the birds in the trees and the sky above their heads.