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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Educate, monitor before appreciating communicative devices

Although the world is growing smaller and converging into a big global village with the rapid advancement of technology and science, the paradox is that instead of life becoming simpler, things are actually growing more complex and complicated.

Rightly speaking, scientific and technological advancement should simplify things for the human race, but the opposite seems to be true. We are now saddled with more gadgets and tools that can complicate things if we are not careful.

The advent of the Internet, personal computer (PC) and tacky devices like the iPod and iPad, is revolutionising the way people communicate with each other, and these inventions are fast becoming tools that people can't do without.

Staying connected has taken a hold on the young and old alike, and it has been made easier through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Of course, the prowess of the Internet has its advantages that include faster speed of communication at lower cost and the ability to share huge chunks of information. Instead of having to build buildings, even teaching and learning can be conducted online through virtual e-classes and programmes. Students and lecturers can be thousands of miles apart but they are brought together in these e-classes.

The Internet is also a superb business tool that has greatly lowered the cost of doing business. Many e-businesses that do not need shop fronts (such as consultancy and even some merchandise trading) have taken off successfully, and its full potential is yet to be reaped.

But there are also the downsides brought on by the Internet and social networking sites that we need to be wary of.

One of the most vulnerable groups is the young, especially children, who can easily fall prey to and be too trusting of what they see and read over the Internet.

Many youngsters have become overly attached to their computer, blackberry, and lately the iPod and iPad be it to play computer games or to chat on-line. As a result, there are now special clinics to rehabilitate or cure these people of their addiction. This goes to show the computer addiction problem is becoming quite prevalent.

Even the adults are not spared and it has been reported that many have become addicted to social networking sites to the extent that it hampers their performance at work. As a result, some employers have barred these sites to prevent misuse.

Once a safe haven, the home has somehow been “intruded” by the presence of prying cameras and listening devices attached to the PC. I read in a recent report that these social networking sites are one of the biggest spy machines that have invaded our homes today.

While these “invisible visitors” may not be physically present in our houses, they are omnipresent and are able to see what's going on around the house if the logged on computer and camera are unwisely left on.

It is necessary to remind all the family members to be wary of who they befriend and chat with online, as they may be too trusting and believe everything they are told or read on the cyber realm.

They should be reminded that the physical and cyber realms are actually two different worlds, and that they should be aware of the risk of talking to strangers in cyber space. This is because there are people who have no qualms about assuming false identities with the intention to mislead or cheat others.

There have been quite a number of cases of people, especially young girls, who have gone missing and could still not be traced after befriending people on these social websites.

One of the ways to prevent misuse of the computer is to have a common area for the home PCs where the elders can watch over the younger ones when they are logged on and there must be an agreed time frame for online chats or games.

Regular interaction among family members to find out what each other is up to will also prevent over dependence on “cyber friends”.

Reminiscing about the pre-Internet days, I believe life was much simpler when we (those born in the baby boomergeneration) were younger. For example, for recreation, we had very limited choices it was either playing masak-masak, heading off to Gurney Drive or Batu Ferringhi beaches (for Penangites) for a picnic or swim, watching a movie in the cinema or studying at home or in the library.

The television set was still in black and white, and the personal computer had not yet made its presence felt. It was still an expensive gadget and not easily available.

Life was certainly simpler with less distractions, and I'm sure our parents had a much easier time despite having a larger brood to care for.

These days, although most families opt to have fewer children, it does not mean life has become simpler. Of course, the growing materialism and consumerism in the world today may have contributed to the insatiable greed among some sections of the populace, as the list of their “wants” grows longer. So is it a wonder things have become more complicated?

Deputy news editor Angie Ng likes these words of wisdom from Chief Seattle: Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.

By The Star

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