Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My 12-year-old daughter attends a large secondary school in Nottingham. Like a lot of state schools it makes extensive use of information technology. It wouldn't be possible for a student to study without using the school's network, if only for downloading homework assignments. This week I had to sign an 'agreement' that my daughter be able to use the school's IT system on the understanding that she/we agree to the school monitoring the following:

- all emails sent and received
- whether emails have attachments, and the content of those attachments
- what time students log on and for how long
- what websites are visited and for how long
- when files were created, edited and deleted, by whom, and the contents of those files
- what terms were typed into search engines like Google
- what websites are visited, by whom and for how long for

The list continues, at length, but you get the idea. Now I can see the argument for this; that the school needs to guard against on-line abuse, cyber-bullying etc. But the effect of this type of thing is that we're raising a generation of children who are used to being spied on; who think it's normal and who are told by the adult world that it's for their own good, to keep them safe.

In the same week I read in a national newspaper about the latest step in the Britain's ever-enlarging surveillence state: plans to make everyone who leaves the country, for whatever reason and for however long, to register their trip with the government, to tell the state authorities where they're going, for how long and why. Failure to do so will be a criminal offence. This is unprecedented in any democratic nation. Why does the state feel the need to follow my movements in this way? For my own good? To keep me safe?


John B-R said...

I assume this only relates to her use of the computer while she's logged on to the school's system???

Virilio, Baudrillard, Zizek, Haraway etc have all been warning us about the paranoia / surveillance state. I think Baudrillard's term is hyperreality. I'm reading an interesting book called Is Oedipus Online which suggests that while the surveillance state is an undoubted reality, it is no way "obsoletes" Freud, as these thinkers seem to suggest, and that much of what's going on can be traced back to the good old-fashioned Freudian family drama - write society-global-sized, of course.

Speaking of family dramas, do you monitor her computer use at home? Or her tv watching? or her phone / texting behaviour? I know parents who do ... [opinion deleted]

Ed Baker said...

if you leave the country to come visit me
they are justified in knowing this inform-mation.

I might use The N Word: Nazi

and otherwise pontificate...

heck, nest thing you'll know they'll ban subjective poetry blogs...

maybe time to change schools?

Alan Baker said...


Yes, it only applies to the school's network (unless there's something we haven't been told). We don't monitor the kids at home (one of them will be officially an adult in a couple of weeks anyway). Friends are surprised that we've never placed restrictions on or monitored what they do online. Maybe I ought to, but we've never had a problem - we talk about it with them often - self-regulation seems like the best idea. Same with TV, phones etc. If I spied on them I'd be like the type of father the government is behaving as, re you're Freudian analysis.


Changing school? They're all into it - just following government guidelines of course ('just obeying orders').

Aidan Semmens said...

You didn't expect big government to go to all the trouble of fomenting terrorism hysteria without making thorough use of it for population control, did you?
Hey-ho - I feel a column coming on...