Sometimes I sit and think about how much technology has changed in just a few years. I’m not that old, early 20′s, but already people of my age say, “never had that when I was a kid” in regards to the technology and access to technology (and the web) that young people today have. I spent my summers riding my bike furiously up and down the street with my sisters or sitting in the park with friends. We never had Wii’s or X-Boxes etc at the age of 7 and over. We certainly didn’t have Facebook and Twitter. Granted, Myspace was going to poke its head around the door in a few years but it was never something we found so interesting we’d sit and waste away in front of it all day. The same may not be said about some of today’s children.
What effect, if any, does this have on children?
First thing first, by no means am I saying that all children sit and tap away at their computers all day. There is though, a very real and increasing percentage which do. Technology and social media is so readily accessible, that it entices youngsters and teens to sit and play it on all day and this can have resounding affects on their time, character and relationships and it is these concerns which most worry parents and professionals alike.
Daily overuse of media and technology has a negative effect on the health of all children, preteens and teenagers by making them more prone to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders, as well as by making them more susceptible to future health problems. Facebook can be distracting and can negatively impact learning. Studies found that middle school, high school and college students who checked Facebook at least once during a 15-minute study period achieved lower grades”. ~ Courtesy of http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/social-kids.aspx
Decline In Interaction
Professionals who study children and children’s life styles, have raised concerns that too much time on the net can hinder learning and social skills. Ironic really when the sites they visit most on the net are in actual fact, social networks designed for people to interact with friends and family. The problem is, they are not communicating face to face and having to learn about social interaction on a first hand basis. It’s far easier to gage some-one’s thoughts and feelings and learn how to read peoples emotions and react to them in person than it is online. Some fear that children who do not learn this will not be able to settle in comfortably to real life situations with people or groups.
Another fear, which was expressed in the quote, is the amount of time spent on networks which may impact on other aspects of their lives. For those of them who are still enrolled at school, networks like Facebook and Twitter are much more interesting than doing the hours worth of science homework that they have been set. I know I fell for that trap when I was at college and uni. Planning a trip down the S.U was far more appealing than concentrating on the essay I had due. Arguably it’s down to ones personal motivation, and for younger children, maybe a little parental control, but the temptation is always there when you are sat at a computer to open a tab and have a quick browse and there comes a time when children simply do not always listen to their parents or play by the ground rules which makes monitoring children’s online time and activity hard for even the most well meaning parent.
Some parents also worry about the company their children keep online. Whereas they can tell a friends nature clearly as they come round for tea after school, it’s hard to know about the personalities they are mingling with when it’s all online and some conversations can be made private. What’s worse, online “grooming” is a a very real fear and any parents worse nightmare. It’s easy to do with networks so easily available to people:
According to the studies, about 69 percent of parents with children ages 10 to 17 are concerned with several different dangers associated with social network use. Some of those concerns include: contact from strangers, publicly displaying geo-location data, defamatory public messages and cyberbullying.” ~ Courtesy of http://venturebeat.com/2011/08/09/study-parents-social-media-monitoring/
One chat in a social networking room or a group is all it could take for undesirable attention and the more people who join these sites, the more the risk of this increases.
Although some children do spend a lot of time on their computers chatting to friends over Twitter streams or Facebook walls, this is the future. However, this is how people interact more and more and so on the flip side of this argument, they are equipped with the the knowledge of how to understand today’s technological world and use it to interact with the people they desire. As technology evolves, it will be these children who use it and so maybe it’s wrong of us to argue that they are loosing the ability to get out and enjoy themselves when this may well be the way forward. It’s also true that the vast majority of children who are part of a network, do not use it as their soul means of interaction but rather as a supplement for interaction in their free time. Maybe it’s the equivalent of the “home phone” from our eras? We saw nothing wrong with phoning our friends and gossiping, what’s the difference with Facebook just because it’s online? It’s also true that many are sensible and do not put out or publish personal data or interact with strangers. The good thing about social networks as opposed to playing in the park, is that you can privatise everything and have complete control over who talks to you and who doesn’t. In that case, maybe it’s safer than letting your children play out?
There is no right or wrong answer, it’s completely down to the individual child’s character and the parents outlook but it would be great to hear your views.
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~ Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stawarz