Do you wonder how kids are being affected by growing up in a globally interconnected, multicultural, participatory world? In this expert interview, Henry Jenkins (Provost\u2019s Professor of Communication, Journalism and Cinematic Arts at USC Annenberg) discusses participatory culture and what it means for kids in today\u2019s society.\n \n \n \n\n \nYou study \u201cparticipatory culture.\u201d What does that mean?\nHenry: The core concept is that this is a world where everyone is encouraged to participate. That is, we live in a moment of time when more and more young people are producing media, are engaged in online communities, are writing fan fiction, are leading guilds and game worlds. Everyone has something to contribute and what they contribute is valued by the group. There are mechanisms that emerge that welcome \u201cnewbies\u201d into that environment and more-experienced people take newbies under their wing and help them acquire the skills they need to participate.\nIt doesn\u2019t require that everyone participate; there are plenty of \u201clurkers\u201d who are watching on the sidelines trying to see what this world is about and how they may engage with it. But everyone should feel like they\u2019re entitled to participate. The people there are passionate about the same things, and that encourages people to learn from each other.\n%%featured_content_1%%\nWhat\u2019s an example of a young person participating in this way?\nHenry: One of my grad students started at 13 writing fan fiction around Harry Potter, and by 15 or 16 she was editing other people\u2019s fan fiction. By about that same age she published her first full-length novel online. She never told anyone her age, and she discovered that she was giving editorial advice to 35- or 40-year-old women who were writing stories, and in turn, they were giving her advice about some of the adult dilemmas that were emerging in the stories that she was writing.\nThis is an example of a culture where the roles between adults and young people are much fuzzier than they would be in school or church or at home, where there are fixed hierarchical relations between adults and kids. It\u2019s a space that allows for adults and kids to talk to each other on new terms and to be connected because of their shared passion, rather than disconnected by assumptions about age and authority.\nWhat are kids learning from participatory culture?\nHenry: Well it may not look like it\u2019s always looked, but a lot of the values in this world are the same ones that kids have always learned. The kid who\u2019s running a game guild of 100 people may be learning the same leadership that a student council president learned at another time and place. The kid who\u2019s running a blog and gets a lot of readers and he responds to them may be learning some of the skills that a student newspaper editor learned at another time and place. There are parallels there that we should recognize and value and respect, rather than just being spooked because the learning is taking place in a different technology.\nWhat can parents do to help their kids benefit from this?\nHenry answers this question in the video at the top of this page. Check it out!\nWhat does it mean for kids to grow up in a networked society?\nHenry: We\u2019re now discovering that we carry our friendship ties with us like a turtle carries its shell on its back as we move from place to place; that these social networks are people we may know for the rest of our lives. As adults we may be discovering friends from high school or college who are reconnecting with us because of the online world.\nOur sons and daughters will carry those connections with them unbroken, wherever they travel on the planet, and that sense of connectivity forms the basis for civic engagement, and for professional collaboration. They\u2019re going to be living in a world where jobs are more short-term and they\u2019re having to constantly negotiate and network their way into those jobs and they\u2019re going to need that ability to move through a social network. It\u2019s going to affect their ability to be creative because in the modern world you don\u2019t just make things but you circulate them.\n\tWhat are some challenges of this media culture?\nHenry: Well, the biggest one is one of proportion. And we need to separate proportion from passion, right? It\u2019s not bad to be passionate about something. It\u2019s not bad for a certain moment in time to really geek out and want to dig in deep and explore something that matters to you. But there\u2019s got to be balance \u2014 not on a day-to-day basis \u2014 on a day-to-day basis you may really be absorbed by something \u2014 but over time, the kid ought to be open to exploring a range of different experiences, some online, some off.\nJust as if you\u2019d sent a kid to the library, you\u2019d want them to explore their favorite topic but also nudge them to read books on other subjects. You don\u2019t want them to be totally locked online, nor do you want them to be shut off from the online world. It\u2019s also about helping them value the kinds of learning that they\u2019re acquiring through that time.