We live in the information age. Every answer you need is a click away and most children know this by age five. In fact, most children have handled a smartphone by the age of two. It is often thought of as cute, as an indication of how smart they are that they can navigate technology so young; but is this leading to a generation of technology addicts?
Oxford University reported in 2017 that the perception that kids are becoming addicted to technology is untrue. Their study found that despite increased screen time, children are spending their other time doing a variety of other activities. Whether this is true for all children though is unknown.
Education Technology reported on a national pupil survey conducted by education technology association, Naace and Catshills Learning Partnerships, which revealed that 60% of four to five-year-olds are using tablets to get online. They may be using it to access their favourite shows online, but, that is a large percentage of young kids with access to unfiltered content. However, with the current trend of using technology in schools every day in the form of interactive boards, learning videos and online teaching; how do we gauge the effects technology has on our children?
Listed below are the potentially harmful effects of children being addicted to technology and some practical points to help parents avoid possible addiction.
Lack of social interaction
Being constantly exposed to technology can lead to children losing their social skills. They are so used to interacting via gaming platforms or social media that speaking face to face becomes an unusual situation. Younger kids may even seek technology as an escape from physically playing outdoors with other kids. Later on in life, this may lead to them having difficulty with communicating well with others. This will increase the risk of problems at school, in university and ultimately hinder their progress into the working world where interaction is often key.
Decreased emotional intelligence
With a decrease in physical interaction from excessive technology use, children’s ability to navigate emotions is also affected. They do not understand how to gauge emotional changes in others and often lack empathy. This is largely due to the fact that they are often so engrossed in a device that they fail to observe changes in people and their surroundings.
Constantly having the power of the internet at your fingertips often results in children not understanding the concept of patience. As they are used to everything being a Google search away, they cannot grasp the concept of research and summarising. Also, parents of toddlers often struggle with their kids not being able to watch their cartoons on television due to advertisement breaks. A smart TV can stream endless videos on YouTube. This leads to an “I can’t wait, I want it now” mentality.
Online personas and insecurity
According to Public Health England, extended screen use correlates to emotional distress, anxiety and depression in young people. Teens in particular, struggle with insecurity due to social media. At this age, they are extremely sensitive to what others think of them. With it being so easy for others to comment on a picture or status, teenagers also suffer greatly when it comes to cyber-bullying. On the flip side to insecurity, social media also sometimes leads to vanity and the upkeep of an online persona. The pressures of this can endanger a sensitive young person’s mental health.
Young people are very impressionable and naïve. It is how they are meant to be before life experiences shape their character and opinions. However, with the introduction of technology, they can be easily manipulated by negative peer groups or online predators unknowingly. Privacy of accounts and devices are often ignored. In fact, most children can easily be traced via their social accounts or a mobile device when the location is enabled.
Decreased physical activity and obesity
With more time being spent on technology, there is less time being spent on physical and outdoor activities. Young people would often prefer spending time indoors on their phones or playing video games than going outside or playing sport. This leads to an increased risk of childhood obesity, even more so when paired with the high-sugar diet most young people have these days.
So, what can you as a parent do to avoid technology addiction if you notice any of these behaviours in your child?
“Become one with the matrix”
Make sure that you know how to handle the devices you have and your child is exposed to and that you know how your child is utilising technology. If you keep up with technology, it will be easier to navigate your child’s experience of it. Devices used at school are often restricted with regards to which sites are accessible so you can do the same at home.
“Moderation is key”
Technology cannot be avoided, so instead of fearing technology, introduce your child to it in small quantities. Do not allow them to become dependent on it, but rather encourage its usage to build skills. It can also be used for fun, but only for an allocated time period.
“With great power, comes great responsibility”
As parents, you need to teach your child from an early age to use technology responsibly. From being responsible with how much time is spent using technology to how to be safe online, it is important for you to discuss the best methods for managing technology use with your child. It is also important for you to be the example in your household and to also manage your own time spent on technology so that they can see how technology is used responsibly.
Technology is not to be feared, it just needs to be understood. The sooner that we realise this and are able to identify the pros and cons involved, the sooner we can use it to the best of our ability. We at GT Scholars promote the responsible use of technology in our tutoring sessions. In addition to this, we also teach young people these pros and cons so that they are able to identify and rectify their technology usage if needed. Contact us to find out more.