“It’s out of control and it’s scarey!”
That’s how many parents and even teachers feel about technology and their kids right now.
I visited a primary school recently and the kids had ipads and iphones on their desks. And yes, they were connected to the net. The teacher expected her students to make use of the resources available. “Don’t forget to use your online dictionary if you are not sure of a word. And remember the web sites we bookmarked in case you want to check up on some of the information.”
Many of the children had brought their own devices from home and others were using the ones provided by the school. A BYOD policy made best use of limited funds. The goal in this school is to embed the technology in the children’s learning to such an extent that an ipad is no more remarkable than a book or a paper and pencil.
A few nights later I attended a forum on children and cyber safety.
I could feel the fear.
A big subject was sexting – kids taking photos of their ‘girl and boy bits’ and sending them to each other. Some kids, particularly girls, had suffered excruciating embarrassment and humiliation thanks to this practice.
The technology is dangerous, right? This proves it.
No, it doesn’t prove anything. Kids have written obscene notes about one another and circulated them for generations. We haven’t blamed the paper and pencil. Rumors have been whispered and spread about sexual behavior and many an innocent kid’s reputation has been damaged thanks to the malice of a few bullies. We don’t ban whispering.
OK. But they spend hours staring at the screen and firing away with their thumbs on the keyboards. They even bring them to the dinner table, have them when we go to visit grandma and when we occasionally take them out for dinner. They never talk to us. They are always texting their friends.
Well, I remember my parents telling me it was not OK for me to kneel on my chair at the dinner table, that I could not walk around the house eating a bowl of spaghetti, that I should finish up my phone call because dinner was ready and that I was to get my ‘head out of that book’ when I came to the dinner table.
These technologies have roared out of the woods and taken over so much of our lives so quickly that we haven’t learned how to deal with them. Our lack of good manners and decent behavior isn’t the fault of the technology.
We haven’t had the time yet to develop a digital etiquette.
So let’s get started.
Sexting isn’t the fault of the smartphone, Twitter, Facebook or the digital camera. It’s the kids who are sexting. It’s the kids we need to talk with because the problem is their behavior. Until someone explains to them clearly what the dangers are, they will continue to get themselves into trouble. And it’s bullying we really need to deal with, not sexting.
My parents taught me how to behave when I was around other people. I didn’t always get it right, but there was no way in the world I would have been listening to my transistor radio or Walkman when I was sitting at the dinner table.
There is a small restaurant I frequently go to for lunch. Orders are taken at the counter and there is a sign that explains, “Please be polite enough not to talk on your cell phone when you are giving your lunch order.” I like that sign.
I’d like to see a small basket on each table in restaurants with a notice explaining “We know how you love good conversations. Please place your phone in here until you have finished dining with your friends.”
We all need a bit of help developing our digital code of behavior, our set of good manners, our digital etiqette.