the kids are in charge

I had an interesting conversation with a Grade 6 student this week which was prompted by some lessons we are working through on safer ICT use. We have been completing activities on the Budd:e website about appropriate sharing of information, privacy issues and how to keep your computer safe from viruses, trojans and other nasties. The final activity involves students printing out a sheet to discuss with their parents – effectively, it’s a checklist to work through on elements that will help keep their computer safe. This student was asking me some quite detailed questions about the backing up data as this was one of the items on the checklist. He wanted to know why this was important and how to do it. I gave him some ideas and suggested he spoke to his parents as they may already be doing this for their important information at home. His reply? “No, they don’t know anything about the computer. Mum doesn’t know how to turn it on. They just got it because I told them it was for school.”

While this doesn’t really surprise me, it does alarm me. I obviously believe technology can enhance and support our experience of the world we live in and think it has great educational and social benefits for children and adults. I think many of the negatives are blown out of proportion by media keen to sell their wares and intent on attention grabbing headlines. However I also know that there are some basic security, privacy and safety issues that are important and it greatly concerns me that children could be left in charge of these in the home as there is no one else knowledgeable enough to do them. I’m not suggesting that every parent needs to understand the inner workings of every piece of technology they own – I certainly don’t. However they do need to be aware of how to keep their home and children safe generally and this includes their technology. Parents continue to teach their children not to wander off by themselves or answer the door to strangers however they’re then potentially allowing the same to happen through technology. I ensure our technology program at school gives students an awareness of some of the risks but don’t believe it should be their job to deal with all of them. It’s their job to be kids. We learnt a great lesson this week in what to do when something nasty gets through the filter as it did in class and I was proud of their reactions and the discussion that followed. However I’m still assuming that there is a filter to get through.

I’m all for children developing a greater awareness of technology issues and safety – that’s a big part of my day to day work. But it pays to remember that they are young, vulnerable and in need of adult support, whether crossing the street or building a website.