It is disturbing to see how technology-phobic parents and teachers can impose restrictions on all of our kids which can result in missed education opportunities, or worse strange behavior towards technology and the Internet.
One such example appeared on the BBC News web site today, where they report that teachers have called for web sites such as YouTube to be shut down as part of efforts to prevent pupils and staff being bullied. Wow – how dangerously stupid! I mean, cannot they just adapt new techniques to avoid bullying online instead of calling for the shutdown of those sites? I bet you the next thing they will do is to prohibit access to YouTube and sites like it for all the kids in the their schools – a really dumb move.
That is exactly what happened to my son. He has been to computer camp over summer for years now. The first year they let them do whatever they wanted on the web. Then they started prohibiting online games during recess times. It got progressively worse to the point that this year they can no longer go on the web. A computer camp without being allowed to surf the web – that is almost as bad as a tennis camp without tennis courts. What are they thinking?
I can just see some worried parents who have no clue what the web is all about, outside of the sensationalized (and disgusting) stories of the pedophiles who find their victims online as promoted by Dateline NBC and other such programs, asking the school to not allow their child to access the web for fear of being stalked or being approached by bad people. This being a very litigious society, the school lawyers are probably choosing to have all access prohibited rather than just limiting access to those kids whose parents are clearly clueless. And the unfortunate result is that kids like my son, who have been online since they were still in diapers, and who have learned how to stay out of trouble online, much like we were brought up to stay out of trouble offline, can no longer enjoy their computer camp and have to give up the learning that they are yearning for.
Sure there are bad people online, and while I am not sure how the online percentage of bad people compares to bad people in the real world, I suspect that the number is actually lower. But it does not matter, even if it is higher we cannot rob our children of the education that will make them competitive to meet the needs of a few Luddites. We have to develop methods to teach them how to stay out of trouble online the same way we thought generations of people to stay out of trouble offline.