Our history of technopanics

I appreciate the historical context Adam Thierer has just given to the technopanics discussion that needs to continue gaining volume (the discussion not the panic, I mean!). “The children of the 1950s and ’60s were told that Elvis’s hip shakes and the rock-and-roll revolution would make them all the tools of the devil. They grew up fine and became parents themselves, but then promptly began demonizing rap music and video games in the ’80s and ’90s. And now those aging Pac Man-era parents are worried sick about their kids being abducted by predators lurking on MySpace and Facebook,” Thierer blogs. He adds that “these techno-panics are almost always disproportionate to the real risk posed by new media and technology, which typically do not have the corrupting influence on youth that older generations fear.” His essay, which also appears in Scribd, quotes others in this school of thought, where I place myself too. But Thierer also provides a great tip for parents, who like the idea of actually talking with their kids about these technologies and media that are so compelling to them: “Ask three simple questions to get that conversation started: ‘What is this new thing all about?’ ‘Tell me how you use it.’ ‘Why is it important to you?’” That gets the ball rolling – then, he suggests, “good ol’-fashioned common sense and timeless parenting principles should kick in. ‘Do you understand why too much of this might be bad for you?’ [i.e., moderation is always a good thing, right?] ‘Will you please come talk to me if you don’t understand something you’ve seen or heard?’ And so on.” Ah, music to my ears (and not a broken record, I hope)! [See also my post last April, “Why technopanics are bad” and “To catch a predator? The MySpace moral panic,” by Alice Marwick in FirstMonday.]

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