Ruby is 7, that magical age when minds develop in giant leaps. Aware of all the research about the influence of internet use on the human brain of any age, I've been nervously observing the way she reads and uses the internet.
Nett result: I'm not worried. So far so good. She enjoys the traditional satisfaction of book-reading, and treats the Web as her personal information search. I note certain cross-over features, but so far they have more benefits than negatives.
Here's the evidence of brain-survival in this particular internet child.
1. Traditional linear reading
Ruby's not a reading prodigy, but she still devours books at a pretty good rate. She regularly reads chapter books for her own enjoyment and enjoys bedtime stories read aloud by her Mum. If she favours icky fairy stories for now, too bad. We cannot blame the Internet for that.
Sometimes we have research sessions. Ruby produces a handful of books (books!) and gives us each a research task. It mainly includes copying stuff. Often about fairies.
2. Internet use: task focused, selective
She asks (politely, tentatively, occasionally) whether we can use the computer to find specific information relating to her passions. Example: last week we watched the Lady Gaga ballet 6 times, with increasing participation each time. Some searches relate to school projects that excite her. And fairies.
Lady Gaga - The Ballet by Jaered Glavin (For Global Dance Contest - Sadler's Wells London)
3. Cross-over: treating books like web sites
This one is freaky. Ruby said: "There are girls' books and boys' books. Sometimes I look at boys' books, because they might have a character who can be quite useful. For instance, Peter Pan, he's a boy but he's a good sort, and he can help solve problems."
What problems, I wondered? Problems in Ruby's real life fantasy games! Does she actually read boys' books?
"No, I just look at them." When Ruby demonstrated the way she looks at boys' books in search of a useful character, she was obviously treating them not like books but web sites, picking out useful titbits for her own personal use, and ignoring the rest. This was a pretty weird thing to observe. If it was dominant behaviour, I'd be worried. As it is, it's just an extra strategy for getting the most out of life. Including "boys' books".
(But how will she ever grasp the principle of copyright?)
4. Internet spin-off: awareness of privacy
I'm calling my grandchild Ruby and here's why. Until recently I wrote many poems using her real name, and put them on a blog. That was mainly for my own fun, but of course people read them. She was aware of what I was doing—but she's just a kid! By definition she could not give consent legally.
Recently I was writing down some of her poetic remarks when she said, "Don't put that on the Web. It's not for sharing."
This shocked and shamed me to the core: a 7-year-old's awareness of online privacy was sharper than mine. I went back to my blog and changed her name in about 75 little poems. So now she's Ruby on the Web.
Good onya, Ruby! Hang on tight to your sense of personal protection when the danger years arrive.
Lots of Ruby poems in C-for-Blog