There’s No App for Ethics

David Polgar
November 13, 2015


There is an app for everything.

Our smartphones now provide us with solutions to problems big and small, and problems that we never knew we had until a solution was offered.

Flummoxed by the annoyance of ordering pizza? There’s Push for Pizza, which promises to be the “easiest way to order pizza. Ever.” If you want to tell someone in your family “Yo,” the Yo App creates a one-step solution to send the utterance. Is your baby crying and you don’t know why? The Cry Translator asserts that its handy-dandy app will determine why the tot is crying.

As the joke goes, insert a problem and find out “there’s an app for that.” You will be hard pressed to find an area that hasn’t be appified.

There isn’t an app for ethics. As defined by iKeepSafe, “Cyber-ethics is the discipline of using appropriate and ethical behaviors and acknowledging moral duties and obligations pertaining to online environments and digital media.”

We live in a day and age when our smartphone contains more technology and processing power than all NASA when they started sending people to the moon. It is hard to exaggerate the vast amount of tasks and functions of what our smartphone can do for us. It is easy to be lulled into thinking that our role as a user is simply to make the right taps and swipes.

The smartphone puts an incredible amount of power in our hands, and that of our children, but as any reader of comic books knows--with great power comes great responsibility. Social media is only as good as we are, so it behooves us to be active digital citizens that recognize the incredible power we have to improve our environment.

It’s About Empowerment.

Empowering our kids and teens to play an active role in their overall online experience. Empowerment can be part of a multi-prong approach I like to refer to as the 3 E’s of Digital Citizenship: education, empowerment, and engagement. Educating kids and teen on the proper use of technology, empowering them to make wise tech decisions, engaging kids and teen to understand how they are using tech.

So while there seems to be an app for nearly everything in life, there isn’t one to help our children and teens act ethically in regards to communication, etiquette, and intellectual property. How do we get kids and teens (and adults) to treat others as people as opposed to personas How should they understand that an ability to right-click it doesn’t mean it is right? How do we get our children and teens to fully understand the awesome power they hold right in their hands?

Our role as a parent or educator is to help build and empower the most important app that kids and teens have--the one between their left ear and right ear.

David Ryan Polgar will be a panelist on our Cyberethics and Civility Panel at #FOSI2015. Register to attend here.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Written by

David Polgar

David Ryan Polgar is a two-time TEDx and a respected tech commentator whose ideas concerning cyber ethics, digital citizenship, and humanizing the online experience have been featured in The Boston Globe, Financial Times, Sydney Morning Herald, SirusXM, CNN.com, HuffPost Live, NewYorkTimes.com and more. With a background as an attorney and college professor, he digs below the surface to examine our tech use from an ethical, legal, and emotional perspective.