Technology – a good slave but poor master

Yesterday I read about an alarming piece of news about the seemingly harmless iPods corrupting the minds and souls of our children. That made me step back and think about technology in general and the attitude of those around children towards technology.

As parents:

  • do we teach our children about making informed choices or oscillate from laissez faire to making those choices for them, potentially crippling them for life?
  • do we make it our business to find out what our child is reading, listening to, accessing, borrowing, downloading or swing from disrespectful intrusion to hands-off right to privacy non sense?
  • do we make time to enjoy the boons of technology and learn from our kids or look at it as something to keep them out of our way after a long, stressful work day?

As parents, we probably have a much skewed view of technology associating it with largely electronic gadgets that are ever so rapidly evolving in terms of complexity and sophistication. We patiently teach our children how to use and master the art of eating with a fork and knife, writing with a crayon/pencil/pen, riding a bicycle for days/weeks/months till the child masters both the skill and attitudes related to it, rarely associating these with technology. We associate technology with electronic gadgets like computers, iPods, e-gaming and the like, giving them access or ownership but absolving ourselves of all responsibility to train and educate them about their judicious usage.

Also as parents, we find it difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with that which we consider “technology”, and therefore take the easier option of surrendering our parental responsibilities of helping our children grasp and responsibly handle technology to teachers, peers and other second or third parties.

As teachers, we train our children to handle laboratory apparatus and classroom resources like manipulative so that they learn to use them to enhance their learning. But when it comes to computers and associated accessories, the onus of their proper use is conveniently palmed off to the IT teacher. The IT teachers, given the length and breadth of their curriculum, and probably because they themselves are inadequately informed or because this aspect of technology is not covered by the syllabus, bypass these crucial life skills in their classes.

With little or no guidance from parents and teachers, children either “figure-it-out” for themselves or learn by trial and error, or turn to equally inadequately informed peers for guidance or worse turn to strangers exposing themselves to manipulation.

In the meanwhile, it is not surprising ,that, children make poor choices in handling technology.