Children and teens today have integrated digital culture seamlessly into their lives. For most, using the Internet, playing videogames, downloading music onto an iPod, or multitasking with a cell phone is no more complicated than setting the toaster oven to "bake" or turning on the TV. In Generation Digital, media expert and activist Kathryn C. Montgomery examines the ways in which the new media landscape is changing the nature of childhood and adolescence and analyzes recent political debates that have shaped both policy and practice in digital culture.
The media have pictured the so-called "digital generation" in contradictory ways: as bold trailblazers and innocent victims, as active creators of digital culture and passive targets of digital marketing. This, says Montgomery, reflects our ambivalent attitude toward both youth and technology. She charts a confluence of historical trends that made children and teens a particularly valuable target market during the early commercialization of the Internet and describes the consumer-group advocacy campaign that led to a law to protect children's privacy on the Internet. Montgomery recounts—as a participant and as a media scholar—the highly publicized battles over indecency and pornography on the Internet. She shows how digital marketing taps into teenagers' developmental needs and how three public service campaigns—about sexuality, smoking, and political involvement—borrowed their techniques from commercial digital marketers. Not all of today's techno-savvy youth are politically disaffected; Generation Digital chronicles the ways that many have used the Internet as a political tool, mobilizing young voters in 2004 and waging battles with the music and media industries over control of cultural expression online.
Montgomery's unique perspective as both advocate and analyst will help parents, politicians, and corporations take the necessary steps to create an open, diverse, equitable, and safe digital media culture for young people.
About the Author
Kathryn C. Montgomery is Professor in the Public Communication Division, School of Communication, at American University, where she directs the Project on Youth, Media, and Democracy. As founder of the Center for Media Education, she led a coalition of advocacy groups in a series of successful media policy campaigns on behalf of children and youth. She is the author of Target: Prime Time: Advocacy Groups and the Struggle over Entertainment Television.
"Kathryn Montgomery brings clear thinking and empirical evidence to one of the most important and widely misunderstood issues of our time: how children and teenagers shape and are shaped by digital culture. Are 'digital natives' more or less engaged with civic matters? What are the effects of the commercial targeting of youth? How vulnerable are children to Internet pornography and online predators? What laws can protect both freedom of speech and the private lives of minors? Until now, many of the claims that advocates have made regarding these issues have been based on beliefs rather than evidence. Montgomery—a media scholar, activist, and mother—brings an encyclopedic and well-organized body of evidence to bear on a debate that has been confused by moral panics, uninformed analyses, and ideological agendas."
—Howard Rheingold, author of The Virtual Community and Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
"Montgomery's study combines the immediacy and engagement of an insider's story with the sharp and dispassionate eye of the scholar. This book will be of interest to those studying children and media, as well as to readers with an interest in cultural policy."
—David Buckingham, Institute of Education, University of London
"For those whose media experience is bounded by newspapers and radio, Generation Digital will be an eye-opening guide to the media revolution that is changing the way the next generation thinks and behaves."
—Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director, Center for Science in the Public Interest
"This is a wonderful book—descriptive, analytical, and insightful. Kathryn Montgomery provides a detailed look at how children use digital media and its role in their development. Most important, she elucidates policy concerns about the commercialization of youth with an understanding of marketing and programming practices that are specific to digital media. Beyond the hype, this book reminds all of us that the digital age is being led by our children."
—Ellen Wartella, Executive Vice-Chancellor and Provost, University of California, Riverside