Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014
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Has the Internet replaced parents?


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Traditionally, parents were responsible for the care and safety of their children.  In addition to overseeing their physical well-being, they were expected to supervise their education, social behavior, and instill good moral values.
 
Today, that model of parenting has changed.  In some homes, children are permitted to address their parents by their given names.  Previously, such a practice was non-existent. It was clearly a sign of disrespect.
 
Television programming in the 50s and 60s depicted family life differently. Shows such as “Father Knows Best,” “Donna Reed Show,” “Adventures of Ozzi and Harriet,” and the “The Cosby Show,” all presented traditional family values that young television viewers were encouraged to emulate.
 
Concepts of right and wrong, good and bad, may no longer come from parents.  Politeness, common courtesy, and kindness are seldom seen in today’s media. Parents complain that their children don’t talk to them. Few teenagers today sit down with a parent and patiently discuss a problem they are having.
 
Almost every problem or concern our younger generation has can usually be resolved by downloading a “computer consultant.” Consider the bullying issue. Here is an example of computer advice titled, “What to do if you are being bullied?”
 
There are many things you can do if you’re being bullied. Different strategies can work in different situations. You can try and work it out by yourself.  But, if the bullying doesn’t stop, you might find it helpful to ask someone else for advice. Don’t be afraid to let someone know that you are being bullied—a professional can help.
 
When parents become too busy to spend quality time with their children, electronics become a child’s new best friend.  Children are being raised as 'digital natives' in a world where technology has replaced their parents.
 
Although parenting is currently being challenged by Space-Age technology, millions of parents struggle to preserve its survival.  It is very difficult to eliminate a practice that has prevailed for millennia. Computers can never be a substitute for the love a father or mother can provide for a child.
 
Parental responsibility that has been present since Adam and Eve is not frequently talked about; i.e., the task of answering the myriad of questions children asks. While a significant number of people think that computers have invaded parental territory that is not entirely true.  Google and similar Internet search engines are a tremendous source of knowledge and information, certainly more than what parents possess. A reasonable compromise would be for parents and their children to work together and regard the Internet as a teacher’s aide.
 
Children and teenagers often have questions they are afraid or embarrassed to ask their parents. A shy 13 year old boy would probably be reluctant to ask his father a sex-related question. He would much rather ask Google. Teenagers who lack life experience are also quick to consult Google for advice on how to break up a romantic relationship.
 
Parents know their children in a way that no computer possibly can know. It is their emotional disposition. Parents often have a paternal sense of how their son or daughter might behave in a given situation. Mothers, in particular, are endowed with what has been called a motherly instinct. The Internet cannot compete with such a gift.
 
Computers are also incapable of discerning how a user feels. While they can be fed words denoting emotions such as love, faith, courage, jealousy, patience, and compassion, all a computer can do is feedback a collection of words that completely lack any feeling.
 
Neuroscientists have created something called artificial Intelligence (AI). Their research resulted in a computer that could think. It could simulate how the brain processes information.  The most dramatic example of their success was when a computer named, “Deep Blue” beat a world renowned chess champion named Vladimir Kramnik in 1996.
 
Aside from the exciting technological advances that have been made in artificial intelligence, one element continues to baffle the researchers. They have been unable to construct a computer that could simulate human emotions.
 
In the famous Star Trek: The Next Generation television series, the robotic Lieutenant Commander Data lacked only one element, human emotion.  Its designer, Doctor Noonien Soong, solved the problem by installing an “emotion chip.” This makes one wonder whether inserting such a chip into an Internet parent would threaten the credibility of biologic parents.
 
- Professor Eisenberg was born in New York City and now lives in Belleair Bluffs. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps in World War II. His career consisted of teaching interpersonal/intercultural communication, public speaking, organizational communication, nonverbal communication, group dynamics, and persuasion at four major universities including Pace University and Manhattanville College in New York. His publications include 19 textbooks on various aspects of communication. Send comments to: aeisenberg3@tampabay.rr.com.

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