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Martha Lane Fox // Professor Tanya Byron // Rory Cellan-Jones
1 December 2009, Royal Geographical Society
"It’s not web, it’s water, it’s life, it just what we are now and what we have to be."
"I realise how clunky we are as adults, we still see the online and the offline. Kids, generally, tend to see the whole thing as one piece, it’s who they are and how they live their lives."
"I wonder why we are so intent on being so negative about this space when it comes to children and young people."
PROFESSOR TANYA BYRON discussed what she has learnt in the process of leading the Byron Review, comissioned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008, to look at harmful and inappropriate for younger people online.
"What I would call the 'moral panic' that surrounds the whole conversation about digital divides and my digital divide is what I’m particularly interested in. What I’ve been working on in terms of government and my review last year, is looking at the issues around children, young people and the digital lives that they have."
"Interestingly I didn’t realise how little I knew about all this until I started and then realised that there was actually a massive digital divide in my own home. I realised how suspicious I was about my own children’s use of technology. My children are both multi-platform, multi-media content consumers and creators and for a long time I, like many parents and adults, had more concern than understanding of what they were doing."
"What was really interesting to me is when you think about the whole debate around digital divides, digital exclusion, children, the older adults and you talk about giving people more of this stuff, you get is this whole panic around the erosion of the morals and the fabric of society."
"We have people who are excluded and we need to address that seriously. We also have people who are included but are not being given the opportunity to grow and learn as digital citizens because most of us who are in positions of education or policy making just don't get it and retreat into under-confident, tired and paranoid ways of thinking about digital issues"
"I think we need a little less conversation and a little more action. And get ourselves moving towards being part of the great digital economy that we all must be"
The great benefits of the internet for both younger and older people who are disadvantaged or may have learning disabilities.
"I think it’s really interesting when you talk about the social and moral case Martha and you talk about how loneliness goes down 80% and confidence goes up 60%. When you talk to kids with learning disabilities or kids with aspergers or autism, or even adults with disabilities for whom the online world has transformed their lives, young people with aspergers who’ve told me they now have friends. They can’t do friendship very well face-to-face, but they can through the online world, I wonder why we are so intent on being so negative about this space when it comes to children and young people."
The moral panic
Tanya contested the belief that the internet is a dangerous place and pastime for children and younger people.
"What we’re doing is we’re getting so lost in moral panics that always come when something new arrives that challenges our way of living, that we are losing the reality of what this technology can do."
"Certainly when you look back at the whole idea of moral panic, it’s really interesting to read around the time when the printing press was first invented, there was a massive outcry. The church were terrified because suddenly they weren’t producing what was written and read any more. Printed material was available to everybody and anybody could put their ideas on paper, goodness me, what is going to happen to society?"
“The web is a democratising force, yes there are harmful and inappropriate things online for children and young people...But harmful and inappropriate is a subjective choice that we have to decide for ourselves with our children”
"We have to recognise the more we clamp down on risk, the more you lose opportunity"
The digital divide between parents and children
Tanya spoke of the risks of parents who are not fully aware of what their children are doing online. Stressing the importance for parents to have a good understanding of the online world and provide guidance.
"We have this perverse risk-averse culture, driving children to do their childhood indoors, and so they are doing it online"
"When you have a conversation with children about being online, you ask these questions: When you went outdoors for the first time did your Mum and Dad teach you how to cross the road?...Yes. When you went online for the first time did your Mum and Dad talk to you about white lists, about privacy settings about anything?...No"
"We have an ironic, paranoid fear of risk to children in the offline world, but they are doing their childhood in the online world where we are not preparing them for risk at all. It seem to me that that is a massive divide"
Education and IT
"I think we should have video game labs in schools, because children learn through video gaming"
"When you talk about putting technology into schools, the level of moral panic goes up to such a degree that it's quite startling. And I have to say that I think it is discriminatory practice. Just because the older generation doesn't understand it doesn't mean to say that it isn't important, possible and neccessary."
"If we want to have a strong digital economy and competent and responsible digital citizens, we need to start in classrooms"