Take responsibility, don’t just blame the technology

I so, so hate it when people blame technology for enabling an action, rather than taking responsibility for choosing to take the action. A kid talks to their friends on Skype instead of doing their homework, so let’s ban computers in schools. No one suggests banning the use of knives for eating because someone stabs someone else with one, so why try to ban computers because someone uses one inappropriately?

I was listening to the radio yesterday and there was a discussion about computers and tablets in schools. Amongst the callers there was an almost universal lack of support for them and the common theme was that kids end up wasting too much time because instead of doing their homework they play games or chat with their friends. The suggested solutions were that either the schools should make it so the kids couldn’t use some of the computer’s features or, simpler yet, was to remove the computers entirely.

So I’m now going to share with you what I shouted at the car radio while driving along. (Thank goodness for hands-free telephones, by the way; now my fellow drivers just think I’m talking to someone on the phone rather than shouting into the air like an absolute lunatic).

Look, the computer is a tool. It can be used for good. It can be used for evil. It can be used as paperweight. The fact that a computer is misused is not a reason to ban it. Beyond a simple level of technical parental control this issue really comes down to discipline and taking personal responsibility. You can’t expect there to be a technical solution to every problem – so no, there is not a perfect filter that will keep your spawn’s computer use on your version of the straight and narrow.

Worse, and this is evil, the idea that it is up to the school or a piece of technology to police activities just says that it’s OK to do anything up until the point that you get policed. It is exactly this sort of approach that’s leading to the abuse and the trolling on the internet. The limiting factor with your use of the technology available to you should not be the software your parents or your employer has installed – it should be your own sense of right and wrong.

And yes in the context of school use, that includes parents actually communicating with their spawn and disciplining them. You don’t teach kids anything by building fences and hoping they wont to get through. You teach them to make responsible decisions. That applies to crossing the road, it applies to going for a swim, it applies to playing with matches, and it certainly applies to using technology.

See also: Technology and ethics: pretend someone is watching.

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