Search Engines replace Teachers and Parents

A survey for Birmingham Science City amongst 500 15 year-olds across the UK came up with some pretty telling numbers about how technology changes society at its roots.


When asked whom they ask when a particular question occurs 54% of students answered Google or other search engines. Only 26% would ask their parents and only 3% their teacher. One in ten surveyed students even answered they would never go to their teacher with a question.

Other numbers include the decline in usage of printed encyclopedias and dictionaries and the rise in usage of new devices such as iPads and ebook readers.

If we take a closer look at the parent and teacher numbers again we also learn that 34% of the students don’t think that their parents could actually help them with their homework and 14% even think that their parents are not intelligent.

Unfortunately, the survey did not seem to ask for the reasons why students don’t ask their teachers when they have a question, though I think this could be related to the recent Robots @ School survey which showed that students feel intimidated by their teachers and prefer someone who learns along with them explaining problems patiently and at their own pace.

It seems, in order to remain “relevant” parents and teachers need to get ahead of the curve and defend their place in society as the ones who simply know more or better. These are probably problems of a transition phase in which big parts of society are currently still hesitant to go all in with digital technology, the social web etc. - children and teenagers however clearly seem to not have these issues.

But if parents and teachers prefer to stay at the sidelines and hope they can ignore the trend, it might erode the education system and society itself from the inside. If students believe that search engines and Wikipedia are smarter than the people close to them, the question is what is the basis for respect?

Believing that your parents and teachers know more / better than you is a big part why children accept their guidance. If children think they are at best as smart as they are themselves or even believe that their parents are not intelligent at all, what social contract can replace that foundation?

Photo: Portrait of smart Schoolgirls via Shutterstock

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