Home » Accountability & Responsibility in a Digital World: Paul Davis at TEDxStMaryCSSchool (Transcript)

Accountability & Responsibility in a Digital World: Paul Davis at TEDxStMaryCSSchool (Transcript)


When I was 12 years old, my mom bought me a computer, thinking I was going to play games on it. When she gave it to me, she didn’t know what I would do with it. I started coding right away. Because of my mom, and the gift she gave me, that it allowed me to basically, explore technology, programming, circuit boards. And it was from that point on, after coding and hanging out with like-minded people, that allowed me to explore my interests even more.

Then I got my first job when I was just under 20 years old with a tech firm. And I thought my career is going to be in tech. And for the past 26 years, professionally, I have dedicated my life to information technology. I always said it’s fun. But it was 4 years ago at my daughter’s school where the principal talked to me about why kids get in trouble using technology, then my life turned around.

I spoke to the kids at my daughter’s school about being safe online, and I also talked with the principal about talking to the parents, as I’ve always said to kids, for those at the same age, I do not blame you guys for getting in trouble online. I put the responsibility on parents. They put the technology in your hand, and they are supposed to guide you. I mean that’s our responsibility. I said, “Please let me reach out to these parents along with the kids.” And he did.

One thing led to another. And you just heard the stats in terms of how many kids I’ve spoken to, over 25,000 parents, 1,200 principals, twice at the Ontario Provincial Police, twice at the Department of National Defense. What I found out four and half years ago, so to speaking, is this is the most rewarding time of my life – education and giving knowledge back.

When my mother gave me, I am now able to give it you. I have always followed the footsteps of mom, who at the time was single mom because my parents split up. And she gave me all the values to move forward in life. And everyday that I do something, I want to make my mom proud, because she gave me the opportunity to who I am today.

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Having said that, at young age you have ton of accountability and responsibility. The responsibility is yours. The accountability is to your parents. I speak to the principal all the time where I heard of stories of kids coming into the office, who have participated in cyber bullying and said that that was a mistake, I didn’t mean to do that, it was an accident. And I looked at the principal and I said those are pathetic excuses, because there is no such thing as accidental cyber bullying or mistake. I can simply explain how cyber bullying occurs.

Number 1, you have to type in and take a picture to do the hurt, to initiate the pain. That’s an action item. So if I make an improper comment I have typed that out, then I have to actually transmit it, meaning, I post it or send it from one device to another device. So the person sees it. Two action items don’t equal a mistake or an accident. They equal intent, meaning it was intentional.

I met a father who said to me, “I don’t know what my son was thinking then.” I looked at him and said, “I know. He was thinking about hurting someone, because he has to think about it before he typed it and transmitted it.” So I want to put excuses aside and I want everyone to step up. You are in power with technology, that is how privileged you are, because you are in a country where your parents work so hard to empower you with that technology. Be respectful, because they own it.

You know, before I came over here today, I stopped off a mobility store, and I walked in and I said, “My daughter wants to buy a phone. I want to give it to her.” And I asked the lady how old she needs to be. She says 18. I said I wanted her to come in, I wanted her picture so she has to be 18. So students, if I ask you how many of you own your phones, the majority will put up your hands. The reality is you don’t. Your parents own those devices. You see what happened was when you purchased the phone, your parents made the financial transaction.

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Number 2, they signed the contract with the telephone company, because you cannot, you are not an adult. Number 3, they pay the monthly bill. You may pay for the phone yourself, which was responsible. You have actually given them the money to pay for the bill, but it is their name on the contract and makes the financial transactions all the time. If the principal confiscates a phone, hands it over to the police officer, that police officer investigates it. Your name does not come up, Your parents name comes up.

So I always talk to kids, you love and respect your parents. Think about how to use these technologies when you go online, because every time you go online, you leave digital trails of all your actions. Now some people say digital trails, digital footprints are the same thing. I actually break them down into two. Let’s talk about digital trails. Let me give you some examples – sending a text message, the sending device, the receiving device, the servers in between. If I send a text message and it’s hateful, frightening, bullying and racist, I can delete the message of my device to not get in trouble. But the person who receives it now has a copy on their device. If they report to law enforcement and they investigate it, they can contact both phone companies and get the information of when I sent the message and when that message was received.

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