Cyber-Safety

Technological Failure

Recently, my computer decided that it didn’t like me anymore. On a machine that was less than 6 months old, I got a keyboard initialization failure. I don’t care how technological you are, when that happens, it’s not a good sign. Two days later, my daughter’s laptop decided that the camera would just up and disappear, and the USB bus ceased to recognize anything, although you could still power a USB desktop fan.

Two machines within a span of 48 hours: one now repaired and the other is still in the hands of warranty repairmen.

At the time of writing this post, I was forced to go back to the methods of writing blogs that I employed two years ago when I first started this blog: a Netbook with 1Gb of RAM and a tablet. Shall we say that I was going a little coo-coo? While the tablet is nice and speedy, it doesn’t have anywhere near the computing power needed to cope with what I need to do, and the Netbook… IT’S SO SLOW!

I had no ability to edit video or audio, or to do line edits on manuscripts for clients. Connection to my favorite social media platforms was come and go, and running Scrivener to gain access to my manuscript files was a game of “start the program up, go boil the kettle and make a cup of tea, and if you’re lucky, the program might be running when you come back five minutes later.” Thankfully, Dell was able to fix my computer quickly, although it did take forever to get anyone at the call center to understand that a keyboard initialization failure meant that we couldn’t run the diagnostics that they wanted us to run because we couldn’t actually access the bios or login to Windows. (My daughter’s computer will hopefully be back by the time she goes back to school in February.)

However, if I think about it, my technological failures are not limited to just the computers. There’s also my phone — the smartphone that is really a dumb phone because the software on it is so out of date. Unless I want to get 30 copies of the same text message within a span of 10 minutes, it can’t be updated. (No joke. It was how I discovered my phone was one sick puppy in the first place. I had to reset the thing back to factory install and shut off the software updates.)

Then there’s the BluRay which will play BluRay discs and CDs but refuses to even load a DVD. There’s the car radio that has lost its FM transceiver and playing CDs is hilarious on Christchurch’s bumpy roads. The stove needs to be replaced. The nobs on the washing machine were broken by movers.

The only technological device in the house that was sick but seems to have come back to life is the dishwasher. It was refusing to drain properly, but my husband and I worked together to solve that problem and fixed it. Haven’t had a issue since. (Quick, I need to find some wood!)

With all the technological failures that seem to be surrounding me, I’ve started thinking — a dangerous pastime, I know. Is all this technology really in our favor?

Devil’s advocate time — my favorite twisted mindset.

It’s become a bit of a joke among parents I know. Take away the Internet and what will our children do with themselves? I know, they might actually have to talk to people using their voices and might even have to go outside. Yeah, we say it jokingly, but it’s not far from the truth.

If I let my children do it, they would gladly spend day in and day out sitting in the seclusion of their bedrooms doing nothing but watching YouTube or playing computer games. If I didn’t play the part of mom, they would instantly become that special kind of stupid that forgets to eat.

It always amazed me the number of parents that would let their children watch TV in the mornings as they were getting ready for school. It was even more amazing to see in the school newsletter a note from the principal about not allowing five-year-old children watch movies like Nightmare on Elm Street or Resident Evil. Even now, my eyes bulge at such a thought. Would I let my children watch those films now? My daughter: no. My son: maybe — but he’s fifteen and old enough to understand that it’s just fiction, not to mention that he’s incredibly cynical like many other teenagers his age.

Those particular arguments were around when I was a child too. I remember hearing my mother criticize other parents for letting their children watch TV and inappropriate films. But something that my parents never had to deal with — smartphones and the Internet.

I got my first cellphone in 2001 when I was pregnant with my son. I was studying at the university where all the phones were toll-bared and my husband worked at a plant that was a long-distance call away. I had fears that I would go into labor and would need to call my husband. He bought me a cellphone as a consequence. After my son was born, it became a way that the daycare center could contact me. So my children have never known what it was like to not have access to a phone while in the car. But trying to explain to them what a phone is really intended for… It wasn’t easy.

My daughter campaigned incessantly for a phone for years. Her friends at primary school had phones. Someone please explain to me exactly who a five-year-old is actually going to call on that smartphone that they threw a tantrum to get. It’s no surprise that schools have developed a “turn it off” policy. (My daughter has a phone now, but she’s at junior high and gets herself to and from school on her bike. Not that the phone actually does her any good. She’ll call to say, “Mom, the bike has a flat tire. Please come and collect me,” then she turns the phone off, so I can’t call her back. DOH!)

It saddens me to see that tablets and smartphones have become the new babysitter. “Mommy’s trying to have a coffee and talk, so here, play on the phone.” Really? Whatever happened to pulling out pen and paper and asking that they draw you a pretty picture?

The world that technology has brought into our lives is incredibly scary. Stalkers now have access to our personal details, bank records and anything else they can get their hands on. Child predators can now go after those in other countries. And cyber-bullying has become such a problem that my home country of New Zealand has passed a law so the police have the power to act and prosecute a person. (Don’t believe me? Check it out. The Harmful Digital Communications Act came into full force in May 2016 and has changed the way everyone in the country deals with electronic communications.)

I can’t ask my parents on how to deal with regulating the technology because I belong to the first generation of parents that has ever had to deal with this issue. What makes it even worse is that I can see the need for the technology.

Let’s face it… I couldn’t do what I do, a freelance editor and writer, and radio show host, without access to the Internet and all the technology.

Remember that this post started with me complaining about how my computer decided to die after only six months. Because of the computer failure, I was seriously hampered in taking on massive contracts that could potentially be worth thousands of dollars. (No matter what, I’ll always be able to take on manuscript critiques though. I have multiple ways of reading a DOC or PDF file.) If the computer hadn’t gotten fixed when it did, I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to record the next episode of Conversations in Science. It turns out that my producer has many different solutions hidden up her sleeve.

As much as I question whether technology is really all that good for us, I do know that the Internet has improve our lives. With the click of a mouse, we can call others on the other side of the world for very little cost. The Internet itself is filled with a mountain of information — we can get access to the latest news faster than it can hit our radios or TVs. And my children have learnt the basics of mathematics using on-line sites that turn the learning into a fun game, but providing stats to their teachers about their progress. None of this would be possible without the technology.

It’s a Catch 22: we’re damned if we do, but we’re damned if we don’t. At the end of the day, I just have to do what I can to ensure that my children understand the term moderation, and how technology is just a tool, not the only path.

Regardless, I like my computer. Please don’t break down again! (Bugger it… Why can’t I find any wood?)


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© Copyright, Judy L Mohr 2017

Posted in Parenting, Random, Social Media and tagged , , .

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