Today (huh, it’s still “today”) I attended a so-called parent’s training (in German “Elterntraining”) at a local grammar school (Kepler Gymnasium Weiden). It’s topic was the handling of youths in contact with computers, internet and addiction risks. The lecturer was Jörg Kabierske, Regensburg (klicksalat.de).
I was there just out of curiosity, to see what kind of questions would be asked, what kind of answers would be given. Since it’s a difficult field for sweeping answers, the latter point was a bit short – to some people’s regret.
For the first steps, Mr. Kabierske illustrated the risks of internet usage in a very “colorful” (X-rated) way, and I guess he opened some eyes, but this way he closed some minds, too. No doubt, he told the truth and he only presented charge-free pictures, but you can always discuss the strategy how to present it. Questions arised in the surrounding parent’s eyes: “My young kid has no chance to avoid seeing naked bodies when he/she is online?”. So far, the lecturer’s strategy went well, everybody was listening carefully. A bit late, the relativization followed in a subordinate clause: Not every page is a dirty site, but the omnipresence of this material causes a habituation effect. From this point, the direction was given: Internet is clearly evil.
In a neutral context, the following points would have been very good, and I’d support them. Just to summarize: “Do not give away personal information in The Net. Don’t expose your personality to strangers in chat rooms or profiles.” My euphoria went short, since Mr. Kabierske talked as if removing contents from the internet was as easy as removing a book from a library. Until a quick hint from the audience, nobody cared about search engine caches or forums that don’t let users remove their postings easily.
One of the next “risks” displayed in a topic list of 10 was “ICQ”, beside Nazis, porn, pedophiles, tasteless sites and so on. Very objective. Of course, he did not lie – there ARE risks in using ICQ, beginning with unchecked direct file transfer and ending with general private chat risks. But again, the way how this instant messenger was anchored in the parent’s minds was terrible. Marginal note: The technical knowledge of Mr. Kabierske seemed to be weak at this point: “Whenever your PC runs slow, first check if ICQ could be the cause.” and “ICQ allows every cheap script kiddie to crack your PC.” – fear and obscurity, no further comment.
Now games: Another point that’s risky for the young and for the old, I agree: Excessive gaming is waste of lifetime, as well as endless auctions, web research/surfing or other stuff you do while forget ting your real life. In this context, a US news flash was shown of a computer addicted 16-year-old playing World of Warcraft. The summary in the lecture was: “You have seen ma as a liberal father, but playing WoW? – Say ‘no’ to your kids!” Again, of course there’s a truth in it, the social pressure in MMORPG’s is risky, but there are other games like that, too (no word about it) and as everywhere, the right dose of time spending with games won’t harm anybody.
At the end of the evening, no word was said about the useful aspects of computers and the internet, and nothing was heard about kids that don’t play/chat/consume too much, but spend endless hours in front of their PC in order to earn IT skills. The lecturer wasn’t able to tell the parents how to see the difference. Do I have to add, that most of the parents have been clearly impressed anyway? So young hackers and children of this parents: You are walking into a hard time explaining what you do “behind the closed door”. Sad, but I guess the possibility that youths are using the PC for their (IT) future as well, doesn’t sell that good – of course Mr. Kabierske was paid for the lecture.
A final question: Whats worse? To lie, or to present the truth in a questionable way?