(historical note: this short interview had been asked by a parenting blog, and should have been published there, to explain why all parents should work to protect their children Digital Freedom. Then that editor changed his mind, so I put it online myself, in March 2008, at digifreedom.net. In the following years, I reorganized my websites several times… until this piece went offline. I put it back at this new URL, with (almost) all the links updated, in February 2014)
Most parents have babies or children who are still too young to make any meaningful use of computers. Do you really think a book like yours is relevant for such parents?
Yes, a lot. If nothing is done to prevent it, several problems I cover in the book (I call them the Digital Dangers) will become, in just a few more years, really inconvenient facts of everyday life. They will hurt everybody, but the most damaged will be the education, civil rights and job opportunities of all those who are babies or toddlers today. Now it is the right time to act to protect them, but only their parents can do it.
Can you give us some practical examples?
Gladly! Here is one which straight from a blog about parenting: the fact that lots of our dearest personal memories are not ours anymore, since they disappear very quickly and easily without a lot of effort (when such an effort is both possible and legal). In that page, speaking of family movies, the blogger said:
I’m looking at the pile of about 200 hours of older miniDV video cassettes on the shelf…How about you?
and one of his readers answered:
First it was floppies, then zips, cds and now DVDs, not to mention VHS. Hopefully, in the future, it will still be possible to view those DVDs.
This is a huge problem of our society, because it also affects all official digital documents, from law proposals to your pension payments. Well, it is exactly the issue I explain and deal with in the “Do we still need Papyrus?” chapter and in other parts of the Guide. I also dedicated several other chapters to how to recognize the best possible computer-related education in a world where computers cannot be avoided but are too often misused.
In addition to this, the book contains practical information and advice on surviving in a digital world which are useful to everybody, not just parents, from how we are forced to buy the same movies over and over or why software creates a lot of pollution to whether e-voting makes actually sense or why and how senior citizens could make a very good use of computers.
What are the Digital Dangers and what else is in the Guide?
They are either wrong practices in the family, school or workplace or missing or inadequate laws which directly impact the basic needs and rights of every family: privacy, culture, education, entertainment, environment, money, civil rights and security. I also cover some problems which limit the real usefulness and safety of the current Internet for all families and citizens.
The third and fourth part of the book (which is pretty short, by the way, just above 200 pages total) explain what are the real reasons of the Digital Dangers and what every parent can and should do as soon as possible to fix them. The whole table of contents is readable online.
Does one need to be a computer expert to understand the Guide or practice the solutions that it suggests?
Not at all. If you have ever heard of computer and the Internet you have all the technical expertise needed to take full advantage of the Guide and follow its advice.
Fact is, today your rights and the overall quality of your life and that of your children depend very heavily on which software is being used around you: this is true even for those families which don’t own a computer yet.
Luckily, you don’t need to spend your whole life in front of a computer or even own one in order to protect your kids and yourself from the Digital Dangers. Digital technology is a very good thing, but you must make sure that its usage is regulated in the best possible way for your own interest and that of your children. Common sense, a bit of good will and a sense of responsibility are all you’ll need to achieve good results.
What about the website associated to the Guide?
(note added in February 2014: these days, I do the same things here at Stop.zona-m.net) The purpose of Digifreedom.net is to host more information, links and other resources on these issues than may ever fit in a printed book, including a database of Digitally Free Schools, one of Bad Public Websites which waste a lot of our tax money and links to teachers and parents who already fight the Digital Dangers. The website also hosts forums where everybody can ask for advice and share his or her experience with Digital Dangers. I also welcome [direct feedback and questions via email firstname.lastname@example.org]. Please don’t hesitate to let me know what you think of the Guide and the Digital Dangers, how you plan to fight them and what help you need to do it more effectively.