Our two-dimensional environment


Picture: Danime, user of goSupermodel

Picture: Danime, user of goSupermodel

Today, our environment is two-dimensional. Virtual environment and physical environment are strongly connected; together they are one concept.

Environment is two-dimensional because on the one hand, technological innovations have given us new opportunities to communicate, learn, share information and ideas, amuse ourselves, feel emotional connections with people that we haven’t even met in person and build communities around us in a virtual form. On the other hand, in the physical environment we meet other people face-to-face, smell flowers and wash dishes.

The opportunities we have now weren’t available 26 years ago. Can you imagine how short a time frame I’m talking about? In 1989 Tim Berner Lee invented the World Wide Web for consumer use, for consumers like you and me. Internet and www gave us a chance to enter into a global world through numeric and symbolic language. They also let us produce content of our own for public use.

Www allows us to be connected to each other via email, Twitter and Skype, to write blogs, make vlogs, search information, use social media and web based applications in our regular lives, to take part in public discussions and make individual choices faster and more freely. Www is here to stay, and it’s part of our communication culture, emotional attachments and most importantly, our affections. Affections get stronger when we are with other people, no matter which environment we act in.

Today’s children are born into a very different environment than previous generations and accordingly, their mindset is suited for new environmental requirements and they have the potential to accept technology in their life. Children act in a two-dimensional environment, which requires understanding of networks, instant chatting, multitasking, various technical devices and different problem solving skills. Although technology can bring new opportunities to express ourselves, for young children it can be too heavy load to cope with.

Kids need moral explanations, not moralizing

Children are together with their peers in a two-dimensional environment and they explore, share information, learn and communicate with each other. Affection grows from the feeling of belonging and acceptance. For example, bullying in social media is the same as outside it. Also confusion, fear, anxiety, or feeling excluded from the group are part of life. Feelings like these should not be hidden. After all, children are playing together.

In an educational context for parents’ the idea of a virtual world is a complex setting. Parents can feel they are losing authority and have a need to provide a good and happy life for their children. In the Western world, technology is strongly connected to good life via participation and entertainment, and it’s connected to our social system by digitalization.

Children are children also in the virtual world and they need guidance, attention, boundaries and answers if they are hesitating. Moralizing is a quick way to shut down a child’s own way of seeing life and feeling things. Media educator Tommi Tossavainen wrote in his blog (in Finnish) that parents should always think carefully how they speak and make meaning of situations to their children. Being nostalgic is not a bad thing, but underappreciating a child’s own culture and mindset is.

Guiding, understanding and finding questions that raise subjects to wider discussion are essential points. The same rules for responsible behavior and actions apply everywhere. As a parent only you can truly see how your child is feeling, so use your senses and open a discussion. Ask and solve the problems together.

Kaisa Myllylä
About the author:

Kaisa Myllylä, The Finnish Society on Media Education

Kaisa Myllylä is a 31-year-old Master of Education, who is a graduated from University of Lapland, majoring in media education. Kaisa is working in The Finnish Society on Media Education which is a non-profit association funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Its aim is to support and develop the field of research and practices concerning media education, contribute to the public debate and provide opportunities to share media education experiences online and offline.

Currently Kaisa is also working on an instructor guide for media club leaders who are working in The Finnish 4H organization. It is the the biggest youth organisation in Finland. Kaisa is interested about informal learning, future school and educational guidelines, human behavior and she likes to drink a lot of coffee.