General conclusions

We believe that ICTs offer many outstanding and obvious benefits. Since most of these are widely known, we do not discuss them in this report. Instead, our task here is to sound a note of caution. Our assessment of current research on ICTs leads us to conclude that ICTs may produce a great variety of negative effects on all levels, from human health and children's psychological development to long-term, diffuse impacts on society as a whole. These concerns deserve much more attention than they have yet received.

We reached four general conclusions.

The bottom line: critical evaluation of new and emerging ICTs is vital. Accepting all new uses of ICTs as the inevitable result of technological "progress" is not only misguided, but irresponsible. Deliberate decisions, rather than haphazard, headlong adoption, should guide us in embracing specific technologies.6

In some cases, the appropriate response may be to adopt a technology freely, while in others it may be to resist, restrict, or even prohibit its adoption. Some of these decisions should be left to individuals, but others may require concerted action by groups, including funding agencies.7 Whenever possible, such decisions should be based on a critical evaluation of the claims made by both apologists and critics of ICTs. It is our hope that the research we have conducted for this project can help the Kellogg Foundation to make such critical evaluations.

The remainder of this summary discusses our findings in particular areas of concern.

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  1. Lessig, 1999.
  2. Bauer, 1997; Brooks, 1995.