The Consequences of Technology
In 2004, my son had a growth spurt. He hit five foot nine, started shaving, endured some vicious acne and all the other curses of puberty and so, became the favorite target of a group of little boys who thought it was great fun to tear down the giant. This torment had gone on for months before I ever learned about it.
I didn’t learn about it until my son told me he no longer wanted to live.
He was in sixth grade. Today, he’s in college and doing well, but I will tell you he bears deep scars from his ordeal.
Let’s skip to 2009: a new executive at my day job directed us to start incorporating social media into our work. I knew nothing about networks like Facebook and Twitter and had a lot of homework to do before I could figure out how to meet his directive. The more work I did, the more grateful I became that none of these networks were around back in 2004.
If they had been, I’m sure I would have lost my son.
Social networks are great tools. They give a voice to anyone with an internet connection, they allow us to remain connected to folks we’d otherwise have lost touch with, and they expose us to news before the networks can report it. Here’s the irony: the things that make social networks so great are also the very things that make them so dangerous. The problem with everyone having a voice is that we can’t readily determine which voices are qualified to support the opinions being stated and which are just hot air. Remaining connected can easily become stalking. And, ‘news’ may be nothing more than rumor. (Bon Jovi did not die in December of 2011.)
I have two more bullet points for the Danger list: First, many of us are more likely to say something snarky online than directly to someone’s face. Psychologist John Suler calls this the Online Disinhibition Effect and what’s really scary is most of us aren’t even aware we’re caught up in it. According to Suler, the internet makes us all anonymous and invisible and because there’s no online authority, exaggerates our own sense of self.
In other words – it’s a power trip and power is pretty much the bully’s objective, isn’t it?
Second, there is the immediacy of it and I want to stress that this is NOT a trap limited only to teens. Adults are just as likely to lose their tempers and take inappropriate action based on anger as teens. This is actually why I chose SEND as the title of my book – because the Send key is RIGHT THERE at the top of the screen, just itching to be clicked before you’ve carefully crafted the message you want to express.
I think it’s important for all of us to remember two things: first, technology is not a toy and second, children are not short adults, which means that is exactly how they’ll treat technology. Social sites, smart phones and the internet have the potential for positive and negative results. I don’t know how children can distinguish the good from the bad without guidance from adults.
How old were your children when you bought them a cell phone? Are they on Facebook or Twitter? Do you know who they’re talking to? Better question – do you know who’s talking to them?
Thanks for stopping by Patty!