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Today’s children need computers to progress
With all the negative comments on the laptop programme for form one students, I am compelled to write my point of view about the programme.
It is the nature of Trinidadians to greet all changes with fear and suspicion. We seem to balk at change, and never think to arm ourselves with the tools to manage it. We automatically think “What will go wrong?” instead of “What can go right?” and seek to quickly stamp out the process.
Let’s face it—our children need these educational tools. We need to be mindful that it is no longer about the local market anymore. Soon our children will be taking on the global market, and they had better have the tools to swim, or they will sink quickly.
All the information that is needed is currently available online and soon it will only be online. If they are not given the tools to learn to deal with this new dynamic, then how do you expect them to function as adults? Ask any HR manager and they will woefully complain that students out of school lack core competencies for even the simplest job. Usually, the students who have the skills are from well-to-do families or prestige schools.
The children who can access new technologies and are exposed to them being integrated into their daily lives have a fighting chance. Parents need to think ahead: “In ten or 12 years time, what will my child be experiencing in his/her world? How can I prepare them?”
My kids have been exposed to computers since the day they could hold a mouse. It has done wonders for their ability to cope with schoolwork, and their ability to go beyond schoolwork if they chose to find out more. And this needs to be encouraged by parents.
Let’s deal with all the issues parents bring up.
• Access to porn. Children have had access to porn since I don’t know when...the delivery method is just different now. The problem isn’t the access to porn, the problem is the desire for porn. What needs to be done, very much like what is being done for drugs and alcohol, is that the danger of porn consumption needs to be addressed by parents and educators.
I have never heard any parent complaining that discussions on drugs and alcohol lead kids to want to take drugs and alcohol. Yet, many people have this notion that sex education and discussion on such matters will lead children to want to have sex. Really?
• Security issues with Web sites. So the Government-issued laptops have locked down Facebook. (By the way, there are other social networking sites.) Locking down Facebook is silly, because Facebook in itself is no more a danger than the TV or the radio. Again, education about safe internet usage and social networking usage is important. But parents will need to educate themselves on what that usage is, and educate their children.
In addition, how is it that children keep getting the password? It means that someone in the ministry may be leaking it to a family member who shares it with his “pardner” at school, and then the password spreads faster than a viral video on YouTube. The ministry can simply change the password once a month. That will solve that problem.
• Damaged computers. Let’s face it—that laptop has just become your child’s new teddy bear...the one that they dragged around everywhere and never let out of their sight. Guidelines to proper usage must be taught. Parents need to educate themselves on best practices so that they can pass it on to their child.
In addition, and this is where the ministry has erred—the expectation that this laptop will last five years places a burden on the minds of the parents. If you get three years out of a laptop, you have gotten your money’s worth.
I do not understand why the ministry chooses to fool parents and give such ridiculous expectations. The laptop is owned by a child. If adults in the corporate world usually see four years out of a laptop, what in heaven’s name gave them the idea that the child can get five?
• Games. Your child has just become seemingly addicted to games. Remember when you were addicted to football/ art/ dancing/ music. (Remember your parent screaming to stop playing with that damned ball, radio, pencil, etc and come and read a book. Remember them saying you will never earn a living on that?) Hands up all artists, footballers and dancers who live on their passion.
The gaming industry is a new billion-dollar industry that is begging for designers, gamers, music and a host of other skills that can only come from what—gaming. But again, if you think your child is out of control then by all means step up and be a parent and educate the child on proper usage. Or bargain with them...one hour of gaming for every research project that they do—an educational one, of course.
Better yet, make that research a project on some profession that your child is interested in, so that they learn how to get into the field and the tools and skills they need. We didn’t have such easy access to that information at their age. Do you know how proud of himself my child was when he discovered what he needed to study for his dream profession?
How many first formers actually start planning the subjects they are picking for CXC, and hunkering down to excel at them? Banning a child today from access to a laptop is the equivalent of banning a child from reading in our day. Our parents learnt to ensure that we did not consume media that was negative to our development.
Parents today have to do the same. Only the delivery method has changed, and we as parents have a responsibility to learn the delivery method, and take steps to be a parent. Not just take the easy way out and ban the child from the computer or angrily return it to the school.
Hear what, pick up the laptop, and use it yourself. That way your child will get accustomed to sharing it with you, and will less likely download the naughty pictures in case daddy borrows his laptop. And ask her/him to recommend some really cool game, that way you know what they are playing.
Also, educate yourself on the different genres of games there are, and the type of minds that are usually interested in those games. You will gain great insight into the way your child’s mind processes information, and what is important to their mind’s eye.
Parents, educate yourself on this useful tool, because your child needs to know it for their future.
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