Saturday, July 9, 2011

What are we really afraid of?

Please note: This post is definitely not suitable for a younger audience. I'm not going to demand you stop reading here if you're fairly young as that never works. But I have warned you.... I would really rather you didn't.

I went to Nethui a couple of weeks ago. Brilliant! It was a conference where the technical side of things took a back seat to more social issues. I attended a lot of the digital citizenry and education streams and while some discussions were a lot better than others, I started asking myself, "What are we really afraid of?"

For example, the number of female teachers compared to male teachers is phenomenal. Looking at this site (found after a 2 second Google search), male teachers within elementary and middle schools (that's primary and intermediate in New Zealand) for 2010, is only 18.2%. The trend is that these teachers tend to start off older than their female counterparts. There's a lot of consideration that a male goes through when choosing this occupation.

What is our number one fear for our kids on the Internet? It seems that it's the fear that our kids may meet deviants. Never mind the psychological effects of cyber-bullying/cyber-stalking that may lead to lowered self esteem and it's associated problems.

There are differences between bullying and cyber-bullying. Mostly in terms of scope. At the Nethui, someone came up with an excellent point. In short, the net can make anyone a bully. In my day, it was the scary big guys or the popular kids that tended to pick on me (yes, I'm a result of almost constant bullying as a kid).

We kind of have an inkling in the back of our heads that New Zealand's suicide rates are horribly high. The media can't report on this. An interesting consequence that I've seen is that this information is underground. Bring on the rumour mill.

What I have to wonder is, given that we seem to be trying to protect people from the very idea of suicide, are we doing enough to prevent it? Would talking about this not be better? I remember as an 11 year old being shown animations about puberty. Things like "You're suddenly going to have hair where there was no hair". What we seem to fail to do is to say to people "This is a time in your life where your brain and thinking change significantly and there's some dangers in that. Things like depression, moodiness, confusion etc. We're happy to talk to you if you need it". As for my own experience, I still tend to try and work things out on my own. I'm sure life would have been much easier had I sought out help.

I always get a sense of fear whenever I'm trying to get something done and people keep trying to sell me stuff. National Bank, for example, when I opened my account tried to sell me KiwiSaver, life insurance, home and contents insurance etc. I know, this isn't really anything to fear. The problem is, when I get home, there's often a phone call asking if I would like to participate in a survey or buy something. When I enquired about a particular qualification from seek learning I got back an email that looked almost exactly like an infomercial had puked up on a computer and sent me the results. My life is being eaten up a sales pitch or a survey or an advertisement at a time.

The media are currently on a big campaign against those legal drugs sold at a dairy near you! Never mind the fact that they've also sold cigarettes for as long as I can remember. Actually... without cigarettes, I'm almost certain a load of local corner dairies would just disappear. I think this is a concern. I think there are some bigger concerns that the media is ignoring. It is no surprise that this stuff sells. There's a demand for it. Is there space to be working with these manufacturers/distributiors to sate that appetite in a safe responsible way? Age restrictions being regulated (rather than volunteered and not enforcible by law), perhaps you'd have kind of a speak easy set up - eg. you may only spark up in designated areas. You may not buy this crap over the counter...

What this highlights to me though is the power the media has. What we seem to be afraid of is what the media wants to highlight. And what the media wants to highlight is what sells, rather than what we really should be afraid of. Wouldn't it be really good if the media had to declare a scope on issues? The amount of legal drugs sold vs. the amount of illegal drugs seized and estimated rate of capture. The number of people meeting dodgy people online vs. the rates of other distressing experiences on the net compared to the likelihood of meeting dodgy people in "meat space".

Of course... ignorance is bliss.

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