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

The 4 types of thinking talents: Analytic, procedural, relational and innovative

Understanding thinking talents in yourself and others can build strong teams and help avoid burnout.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to collaborate within a team and identify "thinking talent" surpluses – and shortages.
  • Angie McArthur teaches intelligent collaboration for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Do you have a self-actualized personality? Maslow revisited

Rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation might be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.

Personal Growth

Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest.

Keep reading Show less

Brazilian scientists produce mini-brains with eyes

Using a new process, a mini-brain develops retinal cells.

Surprising Science
  • Mini-brains, or "neural organoids," are at the cutting edge of medical research.
  • This is the first one that's started developing eyes.
  • Stem cells are key to the growing of organoids of various body parts.
Keep reading Show less

Believe in soulmates? You're more likely to 'ghost' romantic partners.

Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?

Thought Catalog via Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Ghosting, or cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is not nice.
  • Growth-oriented people (who think relationships are made, not born) do not appreciate it.
  • Destiny-oriented people (who believe in soulmates) are more likely to be okay with ghosting.
Keep reading Show less