Friday, October 15, 2010

A license to tech

I touched on related topics recently and the technology-privacy connection keeps bouncing around both in the media and in my head.  We are giving our youth access to technology and tools they don't understand and they--our youth--are reaping consequences...consequences which often have public and far-reaching implications.  Why are we doing this?  And why aren't we more concerned?

We are concerned about responsible use of an automobile.  My state places restrictions on the learner (at age 15) and removes the restrictions gradually until the age of 18, understanding that the highest likelihood of a fatality is when a teenage has limited driving experience combined with less-than-optimal emotional maturity.  In other words, less experienced, younger drivers make more lethal mistakes.  It's pretty high stakes.

And at an even earlier age, we have children using technology (text messaging, cell phone cameras, social media, as just a few examples) without the emotional maturity or life experience to understand the repercussions of many of their actions.  Is it as high stakes as a driving an automobile irresponsibly?  Maybe not.  But I'm not sure the difference would be all that compelling to the parents of teenagers who've committed suicide over images that went viral.

Frederick Lane, the author of American Privacy, describes it this way in a recent CNN article:
We're putting very powerful tools in the hands of children who don't have a frame of reference on how they should be used.  There are obviously very serious consequences when people break these kind of ethical and moral boundaries associated with privacy.
Lane goes on to say that education is the key.  Education may very well be the key, but I'm not sure what lock it's intended to open.  Cognitive development occurs in predictable stages.  We design our schools (and our driving requirements) accordingly.  Maybe it's not education that's needed as much as attention to how and why we are putting these technology tools into the hands of children who cannot possibly understand the implications of their misuse.  Perhaps the fallacy of composition in my own premise is that adults DO understand...

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