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Whether you agree with it or not, there is a fine line between a healthy curiosity for technology and, in the case of one Florida teen, possible felony charges.
If you’re reading this website you’ve most likely experimented with tech, probably at an early age. When I was a teenager, I explored tech behind the closed doors of my parents’ computer room with various Linux distros. My parents were open-minded and progressive enough to let me do my thing. They probably hoped that Linux was just a phase, and it was. But I have remained tech-curious to this day.
Today, there are plenty of gateways for kids to get into tech. Companies like littleBits and Makey Makey are perfect introductions to the basics of hardware and software. Tech education is becoming more of an institution, and less like the awkward keyboard pounding that I experienced.
Parents are also more comfortable talking to their kids about practicing safe tech. Out of the necessity created by smartphones and seemingly limitless messaging apps, teens are much more aware of the dangers of sending risqué photographs and meeting strangers that they met online.
Unfortunately, safe technology usage conversations are mostly rooted in protecting the innocence of the user. We assume that a middle school or high school student knows right from wrong and the basics of the law. They know that stealing, trespassing, and vandalizing are illegal and if they get caught, the cops will come after them. This understanding of the law doesn’t necessarily translate to the digital world, where exploration is encouraged without caveat.
The most recent example of this is Domanik Green, the Florida middle schooler mentioned above. His approach to technology embodies everything we should be celebrating; his curiosity lead him to explore new ways to utilize the technology available to him, in this case the school network. Unfortunately, this curiosity backfired and he is now facing suspension and possible felony charges. I’m sure Domanik has a solid understanding of what vandalism means in the physical sense, but what he viewed as a prank went just far enough to get him in trouble.
While the possibility of felony charges do not fit the crime, this should be a reminder that tech exploration has its dark side. Technophobia is the knee jerk reaction, but it is counterproductive. No one should be tossing out their littleBits. Experimenting with tech is natural part of growing up these days, so sheltering a child from this would be doing them a disservice.
As we encourage the next generation to embark on a journey of tech self discovery, it is important to make sure they’re aware of the dangers that go along with it and keep it safe and consensual.
TLDR: Talk to your fucking kids about what they’re doing on the Internet.
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