Online Teaching – Achilles’ Heel of the Internet Service Providers?

The photo taken in August shows two high school students taking virtual class.

One year ago nearly to the day, we were passing on in this column the researchers’ concerns regarding the threat that the overuse of screens—computers, mobile phones, television sets—by children may lead to a generation of cretins.



This was before the COVID-19 pandemic.



The closing of schools that this triggered made it necessary to develop online teaching tools to, at least partially, go on with school programs. Digital tools have demonstrated how invaluable they can be for teachers in such circumstances.   



In view of the situation, numerous actors in the digital world, and especially the internet service providers (ISPs), have developed cooperation programs with the authorities in the education field to boost online learning in Cambodia. For instance, one of them has signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to make online learning available throughout the whole country.  



One can only applaud this initiative.



However, let’s mention a possible drawback. Because will not this online teaching through digital tools increase young people’s addiction to screens?



One can understand that this will suit internet service providers whose revenues grow in proportion to the development of digital communication.



By supporting online learning and therefore education, the internet service providers encourage young people to spend hours in front of phone or computer screens and, therefore, “the making of digital idiots” feared by psychologists and psychiatrists.



While thanking these internet service providers for supporting education, shouldn’t we ask them to take part in awareness campaigns on the dangers of screen addiction especially for young children. 



We could also use online learning to educate young people on the use of the internet and social media, to teach them for example to flush out “fake news” and predators who use digital tools to abuse young children.  



In any case, online learning must in no way be seen as replacing traditional teaching even if technology makes this possible.



Because the social contact between children and teachers, and between the children themselves, must remain a vital component of the education system. At school, one does not only get filled with knowledge. One learns, outside of one’s family, to live in a society.



The self-interested generosity of the internet service providers should not make us forget this.


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