This TED talk was given at TEDx Houses of Parliament, by Baroness Beeban Kidron. The full video is below, and our summary is underneath that.
In Baroness Kidron’s words, these are the 10 disturbing things we need to think about when allowing our children to access the virtual realm:
“Young people are never home”
With youngsters “tethered” to electronic devices, their participation with the outside world becomes increasingly fractured. Their eyes become transfixed with the screen and they fail to engage with those around them. Real everyday interaction has become a phantom, where more young people are creating virtual selves. It may seem harmless, but the Internet can result in children losing any sense of what it is to be human. After all, there is more to be learnt in the experiences of the physical world, rather than becoming absorbed in the virtual.
“Young people are never together”
Young people are arguably never alone; it is called the world wide web after all! However, the Internet has somehow made it more difficult for young people to meet up with one another. Online social networking creates the endless promise of being in communication but fails to make it an absolute arrangement. The Internet creates a sense of community, but it’s one that only favours the socially strong. It instils a compulsion amongst youngsters to constantly be in the loop, where to be out of contact will render them “missing in action”.
“We may not know what our kids are doing – but other people do”
The online terrain appears harmless, but research shows that just 1-minute on the Internet attracts 111 cookies. Now, these aren’t the soft sugary treats you’d take to your Grandma’s house – these cookies have the capability to work out each of our individual desires and habits. They allow private commercial companies to search our online interactions and to record the information of every digital being, regardless of age. With access to so much of our children’s information, we can’t help but be left wondering whether “Google knows our children better than we do”.
“Young people don’t control their own identity”
The process of creating an online identity persona seems innocent, but these profiles will exist forever in a virtual self. Any information our children make readily available on the Internet could come back to haunt them in later life! More caution needs to be taken when sharing information about ourselves online, as this information goes on to be sold and traded amongst companies. Once they have it, this data is used to create a virtual footprint, which you won’t have the opportunity to take back.
“Young people are being groomed”
The Internet, even in its purest form, has become a predator. Websites are knowingly, deliberately, wittingly designed to addict” and to keep the user using. They have the power to manipulate us and to alter our behaviour, something that comes as a loss to our individual autonomy.
“Facebook terms and conditions”
Young people rarely read them before willingly agreeing to them. There is no freedom to negotiate the terms and once our contract is agreed, it has the power to transfer our valuable data to the provider. This process is carried out Facebook, irrespective of the user’s age. In order to control your child’s virtual footprint, the correct roadblocks and supervision are essential.
“Young people work 24/7 for no money”
Every interaction we make creates data, builds profiles and values. Yes, many of the sites we use are free – but that’s not to say there isn’t a hidden cost! We ourselves become the product, where we work 24/7 unintentionally creating data, which makes others an absolute fortune.
Worn by gamers so they don’t have to interrupt their online gaming to go to the toilet. – I don’t think this one needs much explaining!
The Internet as a method for teaching young people about sex is useless. It’s changing the sexual appetites of young people and presenting them with commercialized sexual fantasies, which reinforce gender stereotypes.
“The like button”
It evokes a lazy sense of involvement but every inch of information your child uploads is sent to corporations, without telling you the value of these objects.
So what does all this tell us?
Baroness Kidron summarises with this: “The Internet’s dominant values are commercial and any sense of it as a free, open and democratic are an illusion. Children are being increasingly drawn into demands and requirements of global corporations. Children have in their hands a smartphone, an unwittingly powerful object, which we as the parents should be holding.”
Do you agree with these points? What do you hate about the internet? What do you love about the internet?