There’s No App for Ethics

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 Ryan Polgar

David Ryan Polgar is a pioneering tech ethicist, Responsible Tech advocate, and expert on ways to improve social media and our information ecosystem, along with increasing the ethical considerations regarding emerging technologies. He specializes in uniting a diverse range of stakeholders in order to tackle complex tech & society issues, cultivating conducive environments for forward progress.

David is the founder of All Tech Is Human, an organization committed to connecting and expanding the Responsible Tech ecosystem; making it more diverse, multidisciplinary, and aligned with the public interest. As the leader of All Tech Is Human, he has created a unique grassroots-meets-traditional-power-structure model that is uniting thousands of individuals across the globe to co-create a better tech future.

In March 2020, David became a member of TikTok’s Content Advisory Council, providing expertise around the delicate and difficult challenges facing social media platforms to expand expression while limiting harm. He appears in the upcoming documentary, TikTok, Boom. David is an expert advisor for the World Economic Forum's Global Coalition for Digital Safety.

An international speaker with rare insight into building a better tech future, David has been on stage at Harvard Business School, Princeton University, Notre Dame, The School of the New York Times, TechChill (Latvia), The Next Web (Netherlands), FutureNow (Slovakia), Infoshare (Poland), the Future Health Summit (Ireland), NATO, and many more. His commentary has appeared on CBS This Morning, TODAY show, BBC World News, MSNBC, Fast Company, The Guardian, SiriusXM, Associated Press, LA Times, USA Today, and more.

David is a monthly expert contributor to Built In (writing about the Responsible Tech movement), and an advisory board member for the Technology and Adolescent Mental Wellness (TAM) program, and a participant in multiple working groups focused on improving tech and aligning it with our values.The main throughline throughout David’s work is that we need a collaborative, multi-stakeholder, and multidisciplinary approach in order to build a tech future that is aligned with the public interest.