Let’s give credit where it is due. UK governments over the past decade, and perhaps most of all, those led by Tony Blair, demonstrated a kind of obsessive technophilia which meant that, the bigger a proposed solution was, and the more obsessively, blindly linked to IT, the more the government would embrace it.
Also, and linked to that, the more they would pay. But that is another story, as Rudyard Kipling would say.
As I say, let’s give some credit to Theresa May’s government that they have begun to row back a little from the official mantra ‘Human bad, IT good’.
They have dared suggest that Facebook should be accountable for what goes on their platform, and they are absolutely right to do so.
They have not so far dared stand up to the looming monopoly power of the internet companies, particularly Amazon and Google, perhaps aware that – outside the European Union – their powers to tackle monopolies like this are that much weaker. Particularly as they are now supplicants to the Trump administration.
There seem to be no complaints from them either that Amazon is subsidised by US Mail for every package they send.
I suppose I feel that, as a parent, the mismatch of power between me and the tech companies who are supposed to serve me has never been greater. If I complain to Youtube that somebody is online bullying my child, there is usually nobody there to reply – let alone help.
If I want my school to use their pupil premium on human beings, they usually get pushed out by iPads (in fact, Apple said that their iPad sales in the coalition years had been boosted by the UK school system).
And if I fear that too much time online, playing games or on social media will undermine imagination, build aggression and promote depression, then I’ll get no support from the government (or the schools, which are great pushers of the online world).
So what do parents do? Well, Judith Hodge and I have interviewed a range of parents, to write a book called Techno Tantrums: 10 strategies to deal with your children’s time online – a guide book for parents, by parents, to navigate a world where they feel largely on their own.
But the broader question remains. Who will stand up for ordinary people and communities against the encroaching power of the tech tyrannosaurs? If not the supranational authorities, and if not the governments, then who? And how long before they get a bit sniffy about letting you read this kind of thing?
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