Surveys – BLAH BLAH BLAH – the NEW Fairy Tale.

One of the subjects raised at this weeks parents workshop concerned information available to them and specifically statistics. One of the fathers brought up the Telstra Report on Internet Safety, which provides a good example to talk about.

According to Telstra almost 40% of parents surveyed are sending their child to school with some form of new technology (phone or internet). Question one – how did they select the parents for this survey?

The article states:

This research was conducted online by Pure Profile on behalf of Telstra in January 2011 on a representative sample of 1,203 Australian parents with children aged 10-17, from across Australia in both metropolitan and regional areas.

This was conducted online so we already have a weighted sample. Not 40% of school kids but 40% of families where computers are already an active part of family life. We don’t know what kind of discussions they have already had on safety and if the questions were weighted to specifically “cyber bullying” etc. We also do not know how many of those actually bought computers and how many bought cell phones. The survey is already weighted towards a specific outcome. I would put more value in the survey had it been done by the schools to find out how many kids arrived with new computers or phones.

Ok so lets say 40% have – for arguments sake – purchased new technology for the school year. The next figure – that about 30% have not spoke to their child about internet safety or bullying etc (I am taken a rough estimate of the 3 figures given) would be 30% of the above 40%. – so 12%. The connotations of this are then presented as a negative and proof that parents are not preparing their kids.

I could use the same figures they give and present it this way – ONLY 40% of the people we surveyed are sending their kids to school this year with new technology. A whopping 70% have spoken to their kids about internet safety, proving most parents are indeed switched on and doing a good job.

This is why I hate statistics and it is one of the reasons parents are frustrated. When you want to do the right thing and self-serving studies are offered up as proof by people in authority, and then promoted by the media … it is tough to know what to do. The overbearing tactics of people speaking to parents, scaring the hell out of them with spin and vague stories of what could happen is not helpful. I have said this all along. It is not rocket science. Parents do care, they need straightforward information and clear steps on what can be done.

Don’t ask parents to suddenly become internet experts if they don’t want to be. That is not going to work either. You are not going to get me to learn mechanics so I can drive the car. Just tell me how to change the tire, when to rotate tires, signs to watch for that could spell trouble. I don’t want to get under the car and listen to 3 hours of you talking and showing your slides on car tires you have conquered.

People’s lives are stressed to the max, time is difficult to find and everywhere are messages of extreme hysteria and negativism. Fingers are pointing. What does that solve?? When people need to be calm and reasonable to enact the task at hand, you will inspire them more by calm reasonable instructions that reassure them they can do it, rather than jumping up and down, screaming at them that we are all going to die, they screwed up, and giving them a laundry list of instructions so foreign to them it sounds like gibberish.

Ironically, the Parliament of Australia’s Joint Select Committee on Cyber-Safety released some initial conclusions.  You can read the whole report, or a quick intelligent summary at Digital Breezes by Leonie Smith.  One of their finding is exactly what I have been saying for years.  Stop scaring and blaming parents.  It does not help.

Get together people and talk. Don’t dismiss your own realm of experience because a so-called expert purports to know what is going on. Be guided by what is relevant for you and your kids and look within your own community for support and understanding. Chances are what is happening in your school has some special tweaks, best dealt with by you and the other parents.

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~ by blisswindlow on June 27, 2011.

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