Differentiate USE, MISUSE and ABUSE of technology


Jayashree Krishna
Co-Founder and Executive Director, LIGA EduTech, Bengaluru

It is obvious that technology is now accessible to most people including school going children. Access to internet or social media has become quite common among student community. But there is a raising concern about use, misuse and abuse of technology in the society especially the younger generation.

There was a time when students had to go to the library, make reservation for a book and wait for a long time as there were limited books available in schools and colleges. Now with the touch of a button, it is possible to download books and gain access to almost infinite amount of information on internet. But it’s extremely important to understand that, while technology is available, it should be used as a ‘tool’ for learning.

Searching for the right content and accessing the appropriate information is the key. When access to anything becomes easy, people may take it for granted and misuse or even abuse the technology unless its value is understood properly. An example on how to use technology for proper use could be, accessing information that is relevant to learning and their topic of interest such as, online courses, MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) and contents. Using websites with .edu extension and access information available for learning purposes and put it to a productive use.

Misuse of technology could be to access information and download the content from the internet that is neither meant for student community and nor for learning purposes. This may be classified as unproductive or under productive. For example, misuse of technology could be to access information and intellectual property that belongs to someone else without obtaining permission from the concerned owner or author of the content, even if it is for learning purpose.

Abuse of technology is improper use of devices such as mobile phones, computers and internet to access illegal or inappropriate content which may be counter-productive to students. An example of abuse of technology could be, trying to use mobile phones where it is not allowed or trying to hack content over the internet.

Educating students on the proper use of technology, and on the other hand, the consequences of misusing or abusing technology will create awareness among students and help them in dealing with student safety in this information age.

Information privacy

In this information age, it is important to know that while we have access to almost infinite amount of information, other people also have access to information we expose to others via e-mail, internet and social media. Having a clear understanding of what and how much information can be shared over the public domain is the key to stay safe and secure.

It is important to know the difference between information privacy and information security. While information privacy is all about the privacy of information that is individual to each one of us and the information security is the security that technology provides over the private information each one of us share. Example of private information may be the bank account number or the blood group information of an individual. Information security is a technology such as encryption or cryptography used to mask or hide the personal or private information to keep it safe.

Students need to know and understand the risk of sharing the information over the internet or social media. At a younger age, with the excitement of a new mobile phone at hand, students may go ahead and share some sensitive private information which may lead to a potential risk in future.

As an example, one of the students may be in need of blood due to a surgery or any medical emergency. In the spirit of helping him or her, any other student may share information such as name, age, photograph and the blood group of the student in need of blood over internet or social media. In case if this information reaches a hacker, the same could be misused or even be abused by the hacker for selfish benefits.

Hence, the open access to information needs to be evaluated carefully by everyone sharing information and understand the pros and cons of the same, before sharing the information on public domain. Teachers and parents play an important role in educating younger generation about the potential risks of sharing the information on internet and social media by constantly providing inputs, because ‘Ignorance is NOT an Excuse’.

Freedom of choice

While there is a general feeling that learner should be given the freedom of choice to be able to access any information over the internet and social media, it is also important to keep in mind the potential risks involved and its consequences. Most importantly, freedom comes with responsibility. Schools need to allow use of technology to those who can take responsibility to avoid any damage to students and protect the reputation of the institution.

To be able to offer freedom to students in accessing information, schools may allow one or two computers directly connected to the internet, strictly monitor and track the usage of these computers. All other computers and devices should be connected behind the firewall. This will restrict access and provide safety to information.

The suggestion to schools is to become aware of information security and personal safety, so that technology could be implemented to provide learning benefits to students at the same time minimising the risks.

Causes for concerns

Jayashree Krishna
Jayashree Krishna

In general, everyone should use caution while using social media and share information. The information shared on such platforms is vulnerable, unless proper care is taken on what we are sharing and with whom. Due to lack of awareness and ignorance, the adolescent student community may get bullied by hackers and exploiters for their own selfish reasons.
First step towards this concern is to become aware of what is happening in the cyber space with regard to information safety & security. Keep the eyes and ears open to know and understand the flip side of using internet and sharing information on social media. One such example is, students should know that websites starting with http:// is more vulnerable as compared to https://.

The second step is to use proper technology such as firewall and data encryption methods. The devices used by students should be password/biometric protected and it should be complex enough for hackers to crack. Multi-level security authentication can help students and schools stay safe and secure.

Limits to technology

The horizon of technology is ever expanding. The ‘Limits to Technology’ in learning processes in schools is diminishing as technology is becoming pervasive. Once, black boards were replaced by white boards, and now technology is available to replace white boards with ‘smart boards’. About two to three decades ago, internet connected people and computers. Today, internet is connecting millions of hand held devices and mobile phones to users. Tomorrow billions of devices are expected to connect to each other and communicate without human intervention.

Information safety and security would be a major concern and challenge to deal with, when these artificially intelligent devices start communicating with each other without the involvement of humans. Internet of things and artificial intelligence are disruptive technologies which are penetrating all segments of society, including schools and other institutions. Machine Learning, M2M (Machine to Machine) connectivity and communication will change the way we learn and live. Educational institutions need to gear up to face the technological revelation and prepare our students to deal with it positively to stay safe and secure in this ever changing universe.

There is a good old saying, ‘Prevention is better than Cure’. This is very much applicable in this information age for student safety and the security of schools and educational institutions.

Jayashree Krishna, Co-Founder and Executive Director at LIGA EduTech, Bengaluru, is also the Co-Founder of i-POINT, a company specialised in learning solutions and professional development programsme. Earlier, she was responsible for custom designing and facilitating soft skill modules for clients of TalentQuest, another company she co-founded. Prior to all, she worked at IBM, Bangalore University and others. She is a post graduate in computer science, with a general management certification from IIM -Bangalore.