Over the last decade technology has undergone an unprecedented growth, leading to a monumental impact in the way we lead our lives. Communication technologies have narrowed the gap between people in different countries to a level where someone typing away from the other side of the world feels like a neighbour, a friend and a confidante.
As the world turns at a dizzying pace, children are being looped into this monumental shift. They can use computers by the age of 6, and they can deftly handle smart phones by the time they reach double figures. These changes have been immensely positive, but parents are now discovering where the catch is. Children speak a new digital language that some parents just don’t begin to comprehend. This article holistically examines the influence of technology on children – the good, the bad and the ugly!
How Much Technology Are Our Children Exposed To?
Children and technology today is a subject that has attracted keen interest among experts. In a study targeting media and children, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found out that the average pre-teen sees communication technology (television, phones and computers) an average of 7 hours a day. Even if you consider the fact that this figure factors in multi-tasking, it is still a mind-blowing statistic.
Many people blame this on poor parenting, which in our view is not particularly constructive or helpful. It’s easy for non-parents to criticize and expect perfection from parents. The reality is that most parents are doing the best they can, scrambling to make ends meet. They are working long hours and are searching for easy ways to protect their children online and encourage healthy, limited use of the internet and computer games.
Positives of Technology for Children
Technology widens social avenues of engagement. According to research in the LA Times, children are not using technology in the way adults used to in the past. While parents fear that their children are out there talking to virtual strangers, it is hardly ever the case. Children seem to predominantly use sites such as Instagram, Snapshot, Facebook and Twitter to talk to existing friends and solidify relationships.
In the earlier years of social media, children used to use sites to communicate with strangers and develop friendships. This trend has changed over time due to the increased level of awareness that currently exists. Thankfully it is less common for kids to share private information with perfect strangers on cyberspace, at least at a strictly conscious level.
Technology Enhances Learning
In 1999, Cheryl Lemke, an executive at Milken Exchange on Technology, conducted a research on how kindergarten children responded to technology. In her deductions, she asserts that technology fast tracks the process of learning, making it far easier for these children to integrate into the fast paced world. Almost two decades later, these words ring truer than ever.
The study above also postulates that children who have an exposure to communication technologies at a young age perform much better at progressive levels of learning than those who do not. This early development seems to promise an easier future for young adults as they make forays into the job market. According to the US Department of Commerce, more than 70% of the jobs in the industries today require technological navigation. This figure is set to rise to 90% in fifty years’ time.
Technology Enhances Visual Reasoning
The influence of technology on children goes beyond mere video games and online charts. Today, sharp, realistic and high definition renderings have made children visually more aware than ever.
Dr Patricia Greenfield of UCLA analyzed fifty different studies on the effect of technology on children and made several deductions. One of her conclusions was that video games and high definition images made children more visually, socially and emotionally responsive to related stimuli.
Negatives of Technology for Children
Gradual Loss of Privacy
Technology analyst Charlene Li spoke about this aspect in an article in the LA times. She shudders at the thought of what her teenage daughter would share to the wrong people unknowingly.
Li is not alone in this. Parents around the world are deeply worried too.
Sample this: Facebook has control settings that allow third party applications to access information of confidential nature so long as the user has subscribed to these applications. Children can therefore inadvertently give out emails, contact information and addresses, compromising not only their privacy but also foiling the thin veneer of online safety.
It isn’t hard for online predators to figure out where a child lives, what school they attend, what extra-curricular activities they do, and so on.
Social Media Settings To Use
- FACEBOOK: Click ‘Privacy Check-Up’ (top right corner). Go to ‘Your Posts’ and select ‘Only Me’, ‘Friends’ or ‘Custom’. Repeat for all categories, then ‘Finish Up’
- INSTAGRAM: Click on the Setting icon and turn on ‘Private Account’ setting
- TWITTER: In the Settings icon, select ‘Your Account’ and turn off ‘Find Me By Email’. Turn off ‘Receive Direct Messages From Anyone’, and turn on ‘Protect My Tweets’
- SNAPCHAT: In Settings go to ‘Send Me Snaps’ and select ‘My Friends’. Limit who sees your images to ‘My Friends’ or ‘Custom’ in ‘My Stories’ (also in Settings tab)
Health Related Concerns
In the U.S. alone, the rate of obesity in children has tripled over the last 20 years due to the sedentary lifestyles they lead. They do not engage outdoors like they used to. So long as children have a remote, a game pad and a phone, they are happy.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, young children only need between one and two hours of screen time a day. However, it seems that no one is listening, because the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2010 study indicates that technology and children today has become a preoccupation, with many children between 8 and 18 spending 7 hours a day using electronic media.
Children and Technology Today – In Conclusion
Technology has been a massive game changer in the way we do things. It has many positive implications, particularly in terms of educational benefits, but it also has the capacity to be destructive to children. In a piece for Time magazine, Dalton Conleyln sums it up best: “Our children’s digital lives are turning them into much different creatures from us – and not necessarily for the better”.