Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

Our family went to a wonderful extended gathering of our Auckland Explorers club.  This winter camp was themed Telecommunication & Information Technology - right up our collective family alley, so to speak!  DH is super Microsoft computer network guru, before kids I was an technical communicator employed by Intel and others, and Alex and Nadia are already proficient mousers.

I've discussed the state of our historic technology museum - DH was able to provide for working display a Commodore 64 (or was it a Trash-80?) and an Apple IIe.  The car didn't have room for my old Atari 1040-ST.  Atari is best known for games computers, but I bet you didn't know (why on earth would you) that they produced the first personal computer with 1MB of memory and beautiful graphical interface, etc.  Shame they didn't build on their successes.

DH had a blast with his old friends (the computers) up and alive!  And he enjoyed showing his old favourite games to the new generation.  Of course, at home these computers live in a closet.  He once set one up connected to the TV in the lounge, to Alex's great delight and...not to my great delight.  Seeing DH with the computers made me wonder if he couldn't donate them as a named exhibit to MOTAT, where he could at least visit them every once in a while.

Internet Safety
In the main hall, Netsafe talked about Internet Safety.  The speaker was not a techie but perhaps PR, and she regularly gives such presentations at schools.  While we are all pretty familiar with the benefits of computers and the Internet, the dangers include:
  • bullying
  • inappropriate content (sex and violence)
  • fraud
  • viruses
We were asked whether the benefits outweighed the dangers.  While the group agreed that they were, I pointed out that it is a moot question, because almost nobody chooses for and against.  It's here and we're using it.  More accurately, we will not give up the benefits despite the dangers, because most of us assume we will never be a victim.

Netsafe is an organisation backed by various business, government, and educational groups to educate about such safety.  Technical dangers and criminal activities were highlighted.  The topic turned to the damage done to people of any age (but in particular children with maturing brains) of spending increasing amounts of time on their bottoms and online instead of in the real world and face to face - and the Netsafe spokesperson presented more and more dodges around this issue.

She discussed how parents used to be worried if their kids spent all their time reading books (?!), the implication being that this was a parallel.  She even said, "We discourage using the term 'the real world" as opposed to 'online' - to them this is the real world too."
Hello!  Can anyone say The Matrix?  
With Netsafe's backers, they are not interested in encouraging less time at the computer.  They basically want to provide reassurance that we all, including our darling little loved ones, can continue to use the computer that we do continue, despite the very real dangers. 

 And make no mistake, Internet addiction is a real danger.  Reduced attention spans and rising obesity is real.  The internet is not the real world, and it is not the same as a physical library.  When anything and everything is just a click away, the rules are totally different.  All concerned parents do need to watch our children's development and relationship with these very powerful technological tools.
Hey everybody, this is the real world - seen in a way impossible before computers!
Most importantly of all, as in every other parenting dilemma, the example you set is key.  Your child is watching you even more closely than their favourite game.

Losing our minds provides more valuable insights into the ups and downs of being connected.

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