Barnes & Noble Computer Books
  CNET : Internet : Guidebook

When teenagers rule the world
By Jay Chong
October 15, 1999

Author Douglas Rushkoff in his book, "Playing the Future: What We Can Learn from Digital Kids", coined the term "screenager" to describe a child born into a culture mediated by the television and the computer.

He said that children are the natives in a media-rich world where adults are immigrants. Parents and teachers haven't even begun to understand the language in this new information-saturated environment, while teenagers are hip to the new media and we scorn their savvy at our peril, he argued.

Written in 1995, Rushkoff's assertions may be even more relevant in today's Internet-plugged world. The examples are everywhere. A 16-year-old Irish girl invents a new data-encryption technology to rival the RSA encryption algorithm. A 14-year-old South Korean runs a successful MP3 Web site. A 16-year-old American boy gets an internship at a Silicon Valley company.

Companies have begun to spot talent in the young. Governments are accelerating the push of computers into schools, while parents assuage their digital-hungry progenies with brand-new Internet-ready machines. We seem to be banking on them to change the world. The question is: are they ready?

Seventeen-year-old Gerald Tan Chuang Win cannot imagine what his life would be without the Internet. The Penang-born schoolboy, who was first introduced to the Net at age 13, went on to collaborate with fellow teenagers worldwide to create award-winning Web sites and global virtual communities.

"The Internet has given me things that no book, and for that matter, no adult can teach me. It has been a self-exploratory process that only I could walk through myself. It has given me more purpose, more direction in life. It has opened up my world and whispered possibilities that I never considered before, making me believe in my ability to do things, and effect change that I would have otherwise thought I am incapable of," he said in an email reply.

This year, Tan led his schoolmates at Penang Free School (PFS) to join forces with students in the U.S. and Japan to bag the first prize in the secondary school category in AT&T's annual Virtual Classroom contest.

"The Internet is not a loser's hideout for social outcasts and geeks. On the contrary, I think about the many online friendships I've formed and how it has helped me grow as a person. I've corresponded with people whom I, at first, thought would never meet due to the distance, but finally met in real life. It's a very special and exciting feeling; it's meeting a stranger but is also an old friend," he recounted.

This used to be their playground


Jay Chong is a technology journalist with nine years experience who hopes her kids have a life beyond the digital screen.

Digital kids

The Net as playground

It's teen spirit!

Playing the future

Online Sites For Teens

AT&T Virtual Classroom, online program for schools around the world

ThinkQuest, an international Web design site for kids

Nation1, an all youth-run site

Bolt, a hangout for high school and college students

Highwired.Net, online network of high schools

LA Youth, teen newspaper

Electronic resources just for teens


Links: CNET USA CNET Singapore CNET Hong Kong CNET Taiwan CNET Malaysia CNET in Asia About Tricast Jobs at Tricast
   Home | Contact CNET Malaysia | Contact Ad Sales

Back to top

Copyright © 1998-99 Tricast (BVI) Limited. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 1995-99 CNET, Inc. All rights reserved.