Scare Tactics in Technology Education

Looking at our society, there are many instances of adults turning to fear tactics to dissuade children from pursuing certain paths or activities. It’s easier as an adult to tell a child a scary reason not to do something, than to inform them.

The foremost example that comes to my mind is sex education. Many states that promote abstinence-only education rely on fear tactics to keep teenagers from becoming sexually active. But what happens when they choose to be sexually active anyway? They’re now in a new situation with no education and only fear to guide them. Abstinence only education does not lead to responsible, informed teenagers. Why are we turning down the same path for teaching students about technology?

Mean Girls

This concept came up during a couple of the book circle presentations in class on Wednesday. It also came up again in Megan Cottrell’s article “Champions of Children’s Privacy”. It is so much easier for adults with less technological experience to fill their children’s brains with fear about the predators and lurking dangers on the internet. To showcase To Catch a Predator and teach children that these are the people on the internet doesn’t lead to fully informed and responsible digital citizens. In the same way that we can’t expect teenagers with abstinence-only education to fully understand how to stay safe, how can we expect teenagers with no education on digital citizenship to be safe and responsible online?

Though for parents and educators it may seem daunting to undergo the task of informing our students about technological responsibility, wouldn’t you rather make sure that every child is prepared and safe than avoid the topic entirely? The reality of the situation is complicated. Are there predators on the internet? Yes. Should students give out personal information online? No. Are there many other aspects to internet use that could benefit students socially, emotionally, and academically? Yes! 

We have gone through the process of figuring out the internet through clumsy trial-and-error. We’ve made mistakes: been fired for conduct on social media, had houses broken into due to oversharing information, had accounts hacked from lack of security. Why would we want our own children and students to go through this same method of learning? We know what it takes to be responsible digital citizens. We figured it out the hard way! It’s time to have that conversation with students and children. From a young age they have a right to know how to conduct themselves online as a responsible and safe digital citizen. Our children already have digital footprints. Let’s give them the tools to maintain a safe and positive digital identity.



4 thoughts on “Scare Tactics in Technology Education

  1. stayceefonts says:

    JVG said it all. I love your post! It is sooo true! My favorite statement is “From a young age they have a RIGHT to know how to conduct themselves online as a responsible and safe digital citizen.” They totally have the right to know, so we must teach them to participate and to do so with protection! BTW, John Oliver’s safe sex video completely popped into my mind once I saw your meme. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it for both truth and humor.


  2. kikadams says:

    I really appreciated your analogy to sex education and your meme, it made me smile as I was thinking the same thing reading these articles; teaching through fear is not effective and really bypasses our desire to educate instead of make mindless followers.

    I also think the digital citizenship conversations we have in our classrooms, like the one surrounding the graphic your found earlier, can really help set a good foundation for being safe on the internet while still exploring.

    In addition, I was wondering if teacher fears of, or lack of time to, incorporate technology into our classrooms in really meaningful way might lead to the fear tactics. They are a lot shorter to address, you can have one big assembly and get it over with and post the rules. You don’t need dialogue, you don’t need discussion, you just tell. I wonder if we made more time to help teachers feel comfortable to explore tech with their students, if the fear tactics will start to go away.


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