While Nicholas Negroponte spends most of the recent "Poor rural Thai students to get 100-dollar laptop" Agence France-Presse article trying to put a positive spin on the bad news from Thailand, Nareerat Wiriyapong interjected a little bit of hysteria at the end.
Included in an otherwise bland "Where is OLPC today" article was this choice bit of fear-mongering about the big, bad boogieman of the Internet: child pornography.
The OLPC initiative has been welcomed by many, but some activists have expressed reservations. For instance, campaigners have raised the fear that children could fall prey to sexual exploitation through webcams and unsupervised Internet access. International children's watchdog ECPAT urged OLPC organisers to make people aware of the dangers.While no one is suggesting that child exploitation isn't a real danger, let's keep it in perspective. Child exploitation isn't new, isn't unique, and isn't exclusive to the Internet or laptops.
"One Laptop per Child ... must incorporate curricula and training for teachers and children on measures for protection from exploitation via information communication technology," the group said in a report launched December 19.
The use of children in roles way beyond their years, in despicable acts from soldiers to sex slaves has happened throughout human history, regardless of country or technology. It will be reduced or eliminated through social changes, political will, and cultural forces way beyond the humble One Laptop Per Child program.
If anything, the OLPC XO may be a positive force, a way for children to report on what is happening to them for a wider audience. Imagine a sex abuse case, student-reported, appearing on the OLPC Nightly News. Or a global One Video Conference Per Child on child labour.
Still, ECPAT does have a point: One Laptop Per Child could do more to help foster their laptops as a positive force in local communities. They could develop a OLPC cultural integration plan where everyone, from parents to educators is taught to be aware of what students are doing on and offline with the Children's Machine XO.