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Digital manipulation through quantified self: It starts with the children

The quantified self movement is gaining more and more supporters worldwide. No wonder if children are already enthusiastic about this trend. I found a glaring example of this in Estonia.

Main argument: self-optimization

I admit it: The enthusiasm for measuring yourself in all details and for self-improvement is just a little scary to me - even if the self-trackers certainly gain results in this way that help them to self-optimize and increase efficiency .

That is the main argument of the self-trackers to do this stress to themselves - as I personally think. Now every adult can do it as he wants. When I recently visited the ICT demo center on a press trip to Estonia, where the functioning and organization of the electronic state was explained to us, I noticed that the children are already being brought up to a kind of “quantified self” - and that's true very, very thoughtful.

e-School for the self-trackers of tomorrow

E-School is the name of the tool that the majority of Estonians use and that initially appears to be nothing more than a kind of class register - but in electronic form. The teachers can enter here, for example, what was done in class, what homework they gave, but also the grades. What is new is the speed at which the data is transmitted to the parents: namely immediately. Among other things, also by SMS.

On the website, the PR reads as follows - including a nice video on the subject:

  • "Teachers enter grades and attendance information in the system, post homework assignments, and evaluate students' behavior. They also use it to send messages to parents, students or entire classes. "
  • “Parents use it to stay closely involved in their children's education. With the help of round-the-clock access via the internet, they can see their children's homework assignments, grades, attendance information and teacher's notes, as well as communicate directly with teachers via the system. "
  • "Students can read their own grades and keep track of what homework has been assigned each day. They also have an option to save their best work in their own, personal e-portfolios. "
  • "District administrators have access to the latest statistical reports on demand, making it easy to consolidate data across the district's schools."

Time-saving or dangerous?

Now one or the other will say: “How practical. There are no annoying parenting discussions. And you can take countermeasures immediately if something is not going well. " Right. And those were the arguments that the enthusiastic Estonians gave us for the fact that almost everyone in Estonia uses this tool - provided that the school that pays for this service offers it.

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"If the child does not arrive at school, the parents get a text message," it said. That may still make sense. But what about when the child chatted with the person sitting next to him and received an entry in the “class register”? Does it really make sense for parents to be informed about every step their children take at all times? How do you see it?

One father told us that he was initially worried that his daughter might feel that she was being watched. But she asked her father on her own initiative to check again what homework she had. Apparently she has not seen a Big Brother situation at all - rather the supervisor has been made secretary.

Four considerations to make

The child clearly sees his practical, personal gain in efficiency in the situation. Is everything okay then? I think one should still make a few considerations:

  1. More communication effort.  I imagine it to be a bit like changing from a letter to eMail vor: In the past everything went slower, so less was written. The constant availability of the communication tool means that it is used more than it might sometimes be necessary. Here, the teachers' sense of responsibility is required to only notify parents when it is really necessary.
  2. Constant need for action.  What does it do to parents who always want the best for their child when they are informed about every little misstep? They constantly feel like they have to react somehow. I try to imagine the pressure that parents put under.
  3. Over-optimization.  Even without this tool, some parents simply overdo it with their desire to only want the best for their child. What happens when parents are not only constantly reminded of this, but also have to fear that their child could be “left behind” if you do not act - because everyone else is also using this tool? Ultimately, they not only put themselves under constant pressure, but also their child.
  4. Social differences.  Finally, one must not forget that e-school is a private sector Company is that schools have to pay for. What happens to those who can't pay for it? In this way, the tool helps to cement social differences.

Great tool or latent danger?

However, you have to say: Those Estonians I spoke to all thought the tool was great - and said that at least the majority of Estonians use it. So maybe my prophecies of doom are completely wrong?

I do not think so. Because: Here, children are made familiar very early on that constant (self) monitoring is normal and should not be questioned. But what does that do to a society in which this topic is handled completely uncritically?

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