Leadership / Management | Organizational Development | Technology & Social Media

A low-tech solution to high-tech problems: Do the right thing

You say technology has made your life easier?

You're not a parent, are you?

For all of the good technology offers us – and I'm talking about a hell of a lot of good – it occasionally turns parenting into a nightmarish occupation. I'm pretty sure my parents never had to worry about what websites I was visiting, or how long I should be allowed to play Minecraft, or whether mean-spirited texts I had received had crossed the line into cyber-bullying, or if that photo I just took would end up going viral.

Is parenting more difficult today? That's debatable. Being a parent has never been easy. But there are a lot of tech land mines out there today that didn't exist 20, or 10, or even five years ago. I've had moments recently when I could happily pull the plug, push our family off the technology grid, and worry about nothing more than how much TV and harsh language our daughter is consuming.

And then, something happens that restores my faith in the tech gods.

Our daughter has an iPod Touch, and she regularly texts her sixth-grade friends. As a paranoid father, I've adjusted her iPod's settings so that I receive every text that she receives. I don't join the conversations, mind you – I just want to monitor what's going on. She's 11, after all.

The other night, one of her friends sent a "group text" to our daughter's group of friends that went something like this:

"I forgot to bring home my notes for tomorrow's test. Could someone take a photo of your study guide and send it to me?"

And one of her friends did just that. Crisis averted. Commence studying.

When I was 11, if I had forgotten to bring home my study guide, I would have flunked the test. Today, the solution is a text message away.

Makes you glad you've lived this long.

Here's my point: We adults think we have all the answers, that we're smarter than our kids and know exactly what tech limits to set for them. And then they do something so mind-blowingly brilliant that we end up looking like idiots by comparison.

Our kids are digital natives. Technology is baked into their DNA. They're always going to know how to find an answer, and why? Because the tools they need to solve their problems are always at hand.

As a parent, I don't want to limit my daughter's access to these tools. I want to encourage her to use them responsibly. Doing that takes us back to the most basic of human principles – morals, ethics, good-vs.-bad, right-vs.-wrong.

Interesting, isn't it, how the responsible use of the latest technology might just boil down to the root of human existence? In short, maybe it comes down to this: Do the right thing.

Or is that too simplistic?

I don't know. I just want our daughter to know right from wrong in a changing and increasingly complex world.


Bill Sheridan