The Technology Threat to Children

Electronic gadgets are a danger to children. No, it’s not because despite being awash in amazingly advanced devices, American millennials are horrific at “problem solving in technology-rich environments.” Nor is it because their ubiquity trains children early to be antisocial, paying more attention to the flashing rectangle than to human beings around them. And it’s not the risk of an automobile accident when children begin learning to drive (i.e., learning to text while sitting behind the wheel). At Computerworld, Mike Elgan says the danger is hacking. Now, granted, Elgan probably wouldn’t discount the other problems above, nor are cyber threats something to be taken lightly, but given the other problems that surround children (particularly with regard to technology), device security—although important—may not merit a headline like “This is why tech toys are dangerous.”

Elgan lists one way to address the problem as “teach kids to code.” But wait, I thought there was a huge dearth of qualified programmers. Who is going to do the teaching? It certainly won’t be government-school teachers, who can’t even teach kids to read. Perhaps a better approach is to not load them with gadgets in the first place.

Addressing the matter of technology and children (or technology and fill-in-the-blank—even with regard to business) requires avoiding both the extremes of luddism and the blind cheerleading of technology-is-always-great proponents. Security is a problem for every kind of device, not just those targeting children. If safety is a concern—as it is with things like driving an automobile—then the best policy may be to avoid giving children devices until they are old enough to discern the threats. One cannot provide all the benefits of technology without the risks, just as one cannot drive without facing the threat of collision. Elgan said, “The new world of smart and connected toys requires a new sophistication on the part of parents.” Does he mean those same parents who are constantly having all their own gizmos hacked?

About Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark is editor for the Data Center Journal. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Richmond, as well as master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech. An author and aspiring renaissance man, his interests range from quantum mechanics and processor technology to drawing and philosophy