Seduced by Tanya Byron

Img_0802_2In early April, I wrote a rather nasty review in the Independent of the Byron Review, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's sponsored report on kids and the Internet. I graded Byron badly:

Let me be unfashionably authoritative and award grades for the Byron Review's Safer Children in a Digital World report. It gets an A+ for its schmooze, an A- for its wisdom about video gaming, a B+/C- on its understanding of the internet and a D for its inappropriate title.

I have to admit, however, that I was hasty. Today I met the review's author, the good doctor Tanya Byron, (BSc MSc PsychD) at her London club and, in retrospect, I must confess my grades for her review were too harsh, especially that B+/C- for her understanding of the Internet. Yes, the charming North London based psychologist and tv star is an accomplished schmoozer. But I was also very impressed with her understanding of both parents' and kids' responsibilities on the Internet. Unlike so many Silicon Valley Web 2.0 utopians, Byron believes that kids desperately need unbending parent gatekeepers who are able to establish clear moral boundaries and rules. "Gatekeepers can be empowering," the child psychologist said, explaining that children without boundaries tend to grow up with underdeveloped frontal cortexes, thereby making them vulnerable to both fragmented personalities and behavioral problems.

By the end of our interview, after she'd uttered that reassuringly puritanical word "responsibility" more than a hundred times, the distinguished psychologist knew she had me. So she grabbed my notebook and scrawled in bold letters:

EAT YOUR WORDS MR KEEN. REWRITE YOUR INDEPENDENT PIECE AND SAY YOU WERE WRONG!

Chew, gulp. Yes, Dr Byron, I WAS WRONG! And I plan to write more fully about the virtues of your ideas on the digital responsibility of teachers, parents and kids in the English paperback version of CULT, due to be published in August.