Egypt Lately & what we can learn from it...

Friday, July 22, 2011


       The internet is an unregulated, uncharted territory for humanity. Unlike what some may have been led to believe, it is not a series of gated communities. Website providers in this context act as the government of these communities, and much like governments in the real world, there is a constant struggle for order amongst the chaos. Much like the question of the meaning of life, the “meaning of the internet” has no agreed upon definition. We all have our own take, given our context, values and beliefs, about the answers to these fundamental questions, yet we can all agree that these are the foundations on which everything else rests.The process of defining something by its very nature, requires us to shave off details, to simplify things and to condense them into soundbites. But if we don’t know something then how can we really begin the process of defining it? Surely we should ask those that are native to the context? 

        The term “digital natives” does not insinuate that technology is natural to children, rather that they are native to the technological environment. They don’t know a world without the internet. A constantly, globally connected and wired world. Yet does that mean they understand it or the consequences it may come with? We don’t know. Ask your son or daughter if they know what the “Y2K bug” is? You might be shocked at the response, we constantly are! But that doesn’t mean that they should be left to their own devices, think of Lord of the Flies, is that really what we want to be creating virtually? We don’t think this would be a world we want to bring children into, without finding any answers to these questions. And we keep hearing from parents who are overwhelmed and out of their depth trying to keep up with the technologies, but at the end of the day this isn’t about technology, these tools are just ways for us to communicate and interact. Just like when we all adjusted to having cellphones, we too will develop our own understandings, purposes and values around their use, and these may not always be the same.

This generation takes for granted the digital technologies we are still struggling to comprehend, and by the nature of their context, kids today learn quicker than us. To try and keep up with them and put in rules and controls, is inevitably going to fail, and by believing this is the only answer given the context we find ourselves in, would be foolish. After all hindsight is only a bitch because it means you missed something in forethought. What might seem like moral courage to one generation may actually be plain old naivety to the next. After all, Schumpeter in 1911 first wrote of the fact that we had overlooked that we used to call business, family business, so much so that the word family became redundant and we dropped it. Yet 100 years later we now have large multinational corporations holding our governments ransom over this currency of exchange we call money. We don’t need to put in more rules, we need to get back to basics. 

So the short story is, you have to Engage first across the generations, so we don’t miss anything. Educate from all sides about the topic and then Empower. Let’s find that balance again between the youth pushing boundaries and the elders pushing back, after all that’s what being a kid is all about right?

  • Engage - Parents need to engage with their kids digital lives - not being a parent online in today’s digital world simply really isn’t enough to ensure their safety. Not to mention, there are advantages afforded to you as a parent to look out for your kids online, are immense.  Get kids to help show them how to use the technology, set aside an hour a week for a “technology lesson”.

  • Educate - Learning needs to be a two way street, but first parents really need to drop the fear levels a little and level with their kids. Statistics show that the greatest risks perceived by parents are waaay off what is actually experienced in the distress levels of their kids. While parents perceive some great threat coming in from the outside (like pedophiles & old men- which do of course still exists to some degree) the greatest threat of harm and damage are being caused by these kids, to each other. We have parents asking us all kinds of questions all the time about various sites and services, but we’ll let everyone in on a wee secret here; know who we ask when we get one we don’t know? It’s your kids! Or someone else’s kids that we have seen online who seem lost with a shitload of potential and those whom have seemed unnecessarily hateful to each other. Well, actually thats not true, we ask you all, but they are the majority of the ones that have engaged with Jess online in recent weeks as she almost sent herself crazy “going native” & avoiding the phone! The same ones that have in some cases even told her at points, she should “just end it all now” and other lovely suggestions that would make any parent proud! Your kids can teach you, their parents, about the new technologies and how they work! And tell you how they work, not do it for you, they are different! From NetHui reviews recently, we quoted “Don’t let the geek touch the technology”. Try it, it requires patience, a skill that never hurt any of us before now…. 

  • And while this is happening, the parents can teach kids about the aspects of these technologies that they might not have otherwise appreciated. After all, none of us had to have these technologies when we were sixteen, and we have no risk of us having to be persecuted for having said something on a permanent, public record, laying dormant and unnoticed with the  potential to be used against us at any moment. And one would hope to think that if we had known that, we might have been more careful.

  • Empower - Just like when teaching someone to drive a car, there is only so far in learning that theory can really take us. There is only so much you can know and foresee while you are still not in control of the wheel. And at some point someone is going to have to give over the keys. Does that mean that it should be a “free-for-all”? No way- the learners & restricted licenses are important stages before your full license after all.

‘Till next time folks! - Jess & James x