Tuesday, 31 August 2021 07:49

Defining Our Roles And Responsibilities In A Digital Society

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Just a few days ago, as I was doing some house cleaning, I came across an old newsletter that featured me back in 2012.

In those days I was just getting started giving lessons to students in their homes when I was approached by one parent who took an interest in my work and invited me to join their group.  

The QFHSA is a committee of people who are the "voice of the parent in education".  I felt it was a great opportunity to voice my concerns as a parent of young school children back then who knew the importance of digital literacy in schools.  In those days, Facebook was only 3 years old and our hand-held devices were not as powerful as they are today.  Live-streaming, Zoom calls along with many other apps and gadgets we take for granted today were not as mainstream in those days.

On that note, I will share with you the article I wrote for them that appeared in their December 2012 issue. I've included some pictures of the article in the paper issue.  Below you will find the text.

I've always told people that I'm at least 5-10 years ahead of the curve. I hope you'll understand why after you enjoy this read!

Defining our roles and responsibilities in a digital society.

By Richard Balfour
November 13, 2012

What amazing times we live in today. It is truly amazing to have the technology that we often take for granted today. It has transformed the way we communicate with each other, and as such, we find ourselves with the challenge of managing the constant and ever-increasing flow of information, and from such a wide variety of sources.

When I left school to join the workforce 18 years ago, the Internet had a very different landscape. For the most part, we used dial-up modems to connect to BBSes or fringe Internet service providers with dial-up connection speeds of 28.8 or 56 kbps. Windows 95 was all the rage, as were flip phones (I recall StarTAC being a popular model at the time), as handheld devices as we know them now did not exist.

Back then, our computers were slow, big, and bulky. Video games did not have the level of detail and realism as they do today. Some video games are filled with graphic, moral, and social values programmed into them. Many games provide a virtual simulation of “life” that closely mimics the real world, so much to the point where it is very difficult to distinguish what is “real” anymore.

The Internet has forced our societies to become more open and transparent than anyone ever imagined. We have become “beacons” for each other on the global stage. Social networking sites like Facebook, Google+, Twitter have given us the ability to talk to anyone, from any country and at any time. Whenever we communicate with anyone online, in a way, we become “digital diplomats”, like others on the other side of the line will see us as coming from a foreign land, having customs that may greatly differ from theirs.

For example, when I use the Internet at home, and I’m chatting with someone in the same city, I can safely assume that my rights and privacy are protected by Canadian laws. But what happens if I’m chatting with someone who lives in a different country, where their Internet usage and privacy laws are much different? How do we make the Internet safe and fair for everyone to use at any time? As the old saying goes, if it’s good for one, it must be good for the other. When we travel for business or pleasure, no matter what our destination is, we always take it upon ourselves to act accordingly and to respect the people we meet at all times. As such, we could adopt a similar approach when using the Internet.

To be a “digital diplomat”, one must be responsible for their thoughts, words, deeds at all times, and without exception. Once information gets out onto the Internet, it creates a permanent digital imprint that can never be removed. This is something we should always bear in mind before we click “Send” or accept invitations from people we may not know too well.

Managing information becomes a huge responsibility on our part, as everything we say or do can and will be used against us, not just by the person next door, but by someone overseas who may perceive the way we use the Internet as a threat to their way of life or national security. This means we can no longer keep the status-quo, or remain silent when we witness situations in which the Internet is used in ways that can harm people, or undermine the integrity of our institutions.

Today, anyone with the right tools can create a visual history of what we do on and offline. This is no longer science fiction, but a fact of daily life for the people and organizations that work very hard to keep the Internet a safe place for generations to come. Just as we have laws to respect the rules of the road, and how schools have rules of conduct that apply on all schoolyards for the safety of their students. We need to be vigilant both at home and at school on how our kids use the Internet.

We should all take the time to think about how others might see us when we express ourselves over the Internet and with our smart devices. Social networking is here to stay. We need to rethink how we use our creativity when we publish or share our digital works over the Internet.

Responsibility starts with self-respect, and in the end, we should always treat others with the same level of respect that we would like in return, on or off the digital playground. That in my opinion would help make the Internet a much better place for everyone.

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