Persistent vigilance is required fact of life for parents in today’s increasingly technological world. From pedophiles in chat rooms to “sexting” teens, from kiddie porn sites to email viruses, there are many threats that our young people face on the internet. Parents must play a constant game of catch up as computer makers, without truly weighing the societal implications, create faster, smaller and more portable devices. Time and education are the two most important characteristics of savvy adults as they learn the latest teen lingo, monitor Facebook accounts, update parental control software and generally keep an eye on what the youngest people in our lives are doing in their down time.
This month computer maker Apple, Inc will release its “iTablet,” and as its name suggests it is a pill that many will find hard to swallow. The new technological device is poised to set off a revolution in the way teen boys and girls access the internet and talk on the phone, and it is being foisted on the unsuspecting public without a genuine appreciation of the possibly dangerous consequences of this new software. This geeky gizmo is set to thrust far past the boundaries of common sense and usher us into an unchartered world of secret, private connectivity beyond the prying eyes of concerned adults.
The iTablet is, in essence, a computer screen that you can carry around and touch anywhere. Shockingly, this new machine lacks a keyboard in an effort to wean children off thoughtful writing and commentary and push them into a world of streaming visual chats and downloadable videos. By taking the typing out of computing, we are encouraging children to watch non-rated films, exchange candid photos, listen to music and read gossip columns without actually contributing any information to the internet, without perfecting their language and writing skills. The iTablet favors the porn aficionado, giving them ample storage space for a lifetime of downloaded QuickTime movies (a file format favored by internet pornographers) and a giant screen to watch them anytime.
The device is operated by the finger. Without the keyboard, you must press different parts of the screen to move items around or open them up. Some parents may find it unseemly to require their children to touch and grope any and every image that appears on their Tablet screen, no matter how graphic or offensive. Just imagine a sweet teen’s face broadcast across the world into the private, murky apartment of someone three times their age who can manipulate and push that image around their screen to lascivious delight. Do you really want to teach our children that all this touching is an acceptable, even necessary form of communication?
Portability adds another level of adult concern. It has always been conventional wisdom that parents locate desktop computers in a family room so they can surreptitiously watch what their kids are doing on the internet while they watch television. The new tablet, on the other hand, can be taken into anywhere— a school bus, a basement or attic, it can be turned on in the dead of night in a boy’s bedroom, it can activated to film away in a locker-room or even remotely as a young man towels off after a hot shower. Critics will say this is also possible with an iPhone and that is true. The number of phone filmings that violate personal privacy has been so severe that lawmakers have rushed to update legislation to deal with illegal voyeurism. But the iTablet is taking this to the next level, by trying to be both innocuous and widespread enough that its wide screen and high-speed capabilities will be acceptable in all places. When you point and click a phone at someone they usually know exactly what’s going on. If you were to point your desktop computer at someone, they would have no idea what you’re attempting to do. That is one of the basic flaws of the iTablet design.
Furthermore, in these difficult financial times many others will question the wisdom and ethical underpinnings of a computer maker introducing a new $2,000 product on the market. Apple, Inc. has a strong track record of creating products and then creating markets for them, convincing a consumer public that they not only want their new items but need them to survive. Before the iPod we had Walkmans and CD players, but Apple convinced us we needed their overly colored new objects. Before the iPhone, we had Blackberrys and normal cell phones, but Apple contrived to make it seem that kids weren’t cool or interesting unless they owned one of their products. The bright, slick Apple designs and the flashy graphics installed on them have been quite popular among trend mongers, fashion designers and other creative types. In fact, many special interest groups “fetishize” Apple products and rave and rave about them endlessly on various internet blogs. For certain lifestyle groups, Apple computers and iPhones are a required accessory for peer acceptance.
The technological revolution has been an unmitigated disaster for the cohesion of the American family. Every new high-speed gadget corporations breathlessly foist upon the consuming public threatens greater moral corruption. These devices isolate children from their parents and allow adult pedophiles direct access to our young one’s intimate lives. They spread pornography like a disease, destroying marriages and tempting young men into sexual experimentation. Apple’s new iTablet threatens to make this situation entirely worse. Yes, it is a cumbersome and slow product with an ugly design that most adults will find akin to a German coffee machine. Yes, it fiscally irresponsible for a public company to produce something so ridiculous as a keyboard-less computer. But the new era of private and portable “Tablet” computing is upon us and Apple has a long record of redefining reality.