Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘cyberwellness

After reading this tweet and visiting the embedded link, I wondered: What exactly is using Internet and mobile technologies positively?

The linked website provides some insights, but I am still have questions like:

  • Why is “cyberwellness” still the term of choice?
  • Why are “screen time” and “device-free leisure activities” still the norm?
  • Is rocking the boat for progressive change is considered positive?

I am positive that digital citizenship, literacy and fluency is the way to go over cyber-anything.

I am positive that screen time is an uncritical catchall phrase.

I am positive that looking back all the time while trying to move forward leads to missteps and falling flat on your face.

I am positive. So positive that I share select image quotes I made over the last few years.

To leave a better planet for our kids, we need to leave better kids for our planet.

Change matters.

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell (Former CEO of Pfizer)

Today’s video is not one for those who do not like “dick” and “pics” in a sentence. But there is a potentially valuable lesson in it if you watch and read on.

Video source

The video is about how two women responded to unsolicited dick pics. They could have complained, but this would have resulted in practically no action taken on the offenders. Instead they took matters into their own hands.

The found information about the dicks that the dicks were attached to and sent messages to their mothers, wives, or girlfriends. Creative, no?

Some people think not because this is somewhat aggressive and could hurt relationships. But, hey, the best defence is offence and if you punch you should expect to get punched back. The rules of the game should apply to everyone, not just the offensive team.

Most responses in “cyberbullying” programmes tend to be passive or non-aggressive. They are written from the point of view of what do to as a victim. There are good reasons for doing this, but this also means that the victim remains a victim.

I wonder if any “cyberwellness” programme is willing to get creative, take action, and suggest good ways to go on the offence. After all, the same technology that allows intimidation and bullying can be turned around on the attacker to make right a wrong.

Consider all negative connotations that the prefix “cyber” brings to other words. Cyberterrorism, cyberattack, cybercrime, cyberaddict, and cyberbullying.

This is one reason why I think cyberwellness is an oxymoron. When I hear that word, I think of “negative wellness”.

It is not a semantic exercise either. Cyberwellness programmes tend to focus on the negative influences and uses of the Internet. They start from a place of fear instead of rationale thought.

And so does the reaction to cyberbulling.

Before cyber was attached to bullying, we would vilify the bully. With cyberbullying, people tend to vilify both the bully and the tools like text messaging and social media platforms.

Bullying is bullying, cyber or not. One direct way of dealing with the problem is to deal with the bully. Ask the number one question: Why does he or she bully?

However, anti-cyberbully lobbyists sometimes blame the tools. This is no more logical than blaming the unkind hand, stick, or shoe a non-cyberbully would use.

Not all cyberwellness programmes are like that, but most tend to have elements of irrational fear or misplaced strategy. We should see through that. If not we might be “bullied” into thinking that way.

I think the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) cannot be implemented fast enough.

According to the PDPA site:

Provisions relating to the DNC Registry came into effect on 2 January 2014 and the main data protection rules will come into force on 2 July 2014.

DNC is Do Not Call. It also covers Do Not Text and Do Not Fax. I wish it had Do Not Email.

Like most people in Singapore, I still get spam text messages. I did not subscribe to any of them nor did I agree to receive them, but I am always told I can unsubscribe from them.

My son has his own smartphone and he gets messages informing him of ATM withdrawals and advertisements to attend courses or to buy condominiums.

I assume that since he has a prepaid SIM card number, the previous owner of the number set up the ATM withdrawal alert. These texts are from a bank we do not have an account with and the alerts are for $1,000 withdrawals. From the frequency of the withdrawals, my guess is that the previous owner has a gambling habit.

How now, PDPA?

My son attends Primary school and is too young to attend accounting and other courses the texts tout. He is not interested in them either. Nor is he rich enough to buy a condominium.

Maybe he has money squirreled away somewhere. According to other text messages, he makes frequent $1,000 withdrawals.

But I digress.

When my son asked me why he should not reply or unsubscribe, I told him that was a sure-fire way of letting the marketers know that he existed. He would get even more text messages as a result.

When he asked me why they would send such messages to a kid, I told him that they did not know that he was a child. And in this case, I do not really hold the marketers responsible.

The mobile operators are guilty of being loose with their databases. It is not enough that they make money out of the services we pay for. They also want to profit from our information.

But I digress again.

Learning to deal with spam texts is an early 21st century competency. It is about managing your personal information.

We cannot expect most schools to teach kids this competency because most schools ban or restrict the use of smartphones, particularly among the younger kids.

When schools do make an attempt, it might be an e-learning module led by Garfield (that fat orange cat) that even young kids know has nothing to do with reality. Kids can tell if a situation is not real or the consequences not dire.

Parents can put their hope in schools or wait for the PDPA to come into effect. They can also choose to categorize this as a small issue and ignore it. Doing any of these are mistakes. These are teachable moments that are authentic and meaningful.

I saw this tweet recently:

Does closing one’s browser immediately really help? It certainly takes the site away from one’s sight. But it does not take the problem away, nor does the action teach the child why.

I think the tweet means to say: Teach your child to recognize inappropriate or harmful content. This requires spending time with the child and effort in mentoring them.

Closing a browser quickly is like an unthinking reflex or a response to a barked order. I would rather a child leave the site on screen and be able to discuss what is “inappropriate” and why before closing it.

Some might consider a page with porn or racial hatred inappropriate. I would consider a luscious display of melons and a banana inappropriate to show to someone who is fasting. Need I explain why?

Most folk would not blink on reading this tweet:

Most of the tips at the URL are reasonable but they should not be implemented as unquestioned, blanket rules.

I have different perspectives on the tweet and one of the tips.

Few question the term “cyberwellness”. I think that it is an oxymoron given how the word cyber is often paired with the words attack, bullying, threat, terrorism. Cyber is negative.

Cyberwellness is negative wellness, or to put it another way, putting up with something that is somehow inherently bad. Do a basic analysis of so-called cyberwellness tips and you will discover that most are restrictive, e.g., do not let your child play video games for more than two hours per day.

The underlying assumption that video games are bad or a waste of time should be questioned.

Why is the limit two hours and is that the limit regardless of whether it is a weekday or weekend?

Why do we have different rules for the analogue and digital worlds? The same parents that would not limit a child’s playtime with LEGO would limit a creative process like surviving and building in Minecraft.

Why do we not have rules about unnecessary tuition and completing assessment book drills? How about tips on how not to be stupefied by schooling?

Why is the analogue mostly good and the digital mostly bad?

I know why. It starts with ignorance, e.g., a parent not playing video games with their child or refusing to analyze information about gaming. Ignorance feeds fear which in turn reinforces ignorance.

But breaking this unhealthy cycle is difficult because the very things that can educate parents (video games and the Internet) are what they are already afraid of.

Video source

Majority Rules by amchu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  amchu 

I love Scott McLeod’s “26 Internet safety talking points“. Here is a sample:

Mobile phones, Facebook, Wikipedia, YouTube, blogs, Wikispaces, Google, and whatever other technologies you’re blocking are not inherently evil. Stop demonizing them and focus on people’s behavior, not the tools, particularly when it comes to making policy.

You don’t need special policies for specific tools. Just check that the policies you have are inclusive of electronic communication channels and then enforce the policies you already have on bullying, cheating, sexual harassment, inappropriate communication, illicit behavior, etc.

Why are you penalizing the 95% for the 5%? You don’t do this in other areas of discipline at school. Even though you know some students will use their voices or bodies inappropriately in school, you don’t ban everyone from speaking or moving. You know some students may show up drunk to the prom, yet you don’t cancel the prom because of a few rule breakers. Instead, you assume that most students will act appropriately most of the time and then you enforce reasonable expectations and policies for the occasional few that don’t.

When a blog article is this good, there is little to add. Except to add it to a list of bookmarks, Evernote, Diigo, Delicious, etc. for future reference!

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