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Modern Children: Impact of Technology on Kids

Programmer, Freelance
Sep 20, 2017 4:30 AM 4 min read
Editorial

Can you imagine going through an entire day without checking your mobile phone? The mere thought can cause discomfort. A nearly automated urge to look at a screen is the new norm; encapsulated by our fidgety finger-tapping first thing in the morning, in commute, when taking the elevator, during agenda-filled meetings as well as for conversational silences. Technology’s immersive grip is indeed the bedrock of modern living and the dimly lit flickering piece of glass we sleep next to is its testament.

 

We can’t seem to have enough of selfies, texts, shares, likes, and not to mention marathon sessions of the newest must-see on Netflix. Few of us were at least fortunate to see the world before this “transition”, a world where landlines and cable were equally desirable avenues. Children of today on the other hand must face technology’s potent exposure full-on. An extensive research by AAP, a news journal, concluded that children now start using mobile devices from ages as early as four. How is their childhood shaping? Are they equipped to deal with an overdose of information and connectivity? Are we equipped to handle their challenges?

 

Technology’s impact on democratizing education and questioning old-world assumptions on information access, delivery formats, and pedagogy is a blessing. There are 58 million children of primary school age around the world without access to basic education. Thanks to technology, physical attendance of lectures and note-taking isn’t the only way to learn. Online programs where a single teacher potentially educates hundreds of children facing poverty or geographical isolation is the only scalable way ahead.

 

Aside from enhancing access, the internet ensures youth in remote or underdeveloped parts of the world are as well-informed as anyone else. Options are available at the click of a button, applications are an email away. Aspiring students are coming closer to the cradles of learning while universities are entering one’s home, as evident by the drastic rise in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). These are online platforms which established universities use to provide their courses in digital-friendly formats to enable out of college learning and certification. MOOCs also have active communities that enable participative learning.

 

Nevertheless, access to unlimited information also has its drawbacks. According to a report by Covenant Eyes, an internet filtering company, 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to some form of adult content before they turn 18. Coupled with inadequate awareness, such content runs the risk of reinforcing a misleading perception around ideas of attraction, sexuality and consent. Unsupervised exposure can be equally harmful in a more benign setting. Social media, for instance, becomes a channel for external validation when children are still discovering themselves. At an age when gender and appearances shouldn’t really matter, filtered pictures of friends on Instagram or Facebook can easily feed off their natural insecurities.

 

Aside from implications which are internalized, there are more practical and physical effects to note. Free messaging services strengthen the need for instant gratification, often pushing kids away from oral conversations and diluting their writing skills. Without persistent steering, research points to increased likelihood for adopting improper grammar, shortened words and incomplete sentences.

 

According to NPD, a data services provider, 91 percent of children between the ages of 2–17 play video games frequently in the United States. Virtual reality games are known to considerably increase heart rate, cause hyperarousal, dizziness and nausea. Time spent on gaming is time away from outdoor playing, essential for developing muscle strength, coordination and gaining self-confidence. Even video game manufacturers have acknowledged this point, by shrewdly introducing the concept of ‘Exergaming’. Devices like Nintendo Wii and XBOX Kinect can only be controlled by the user’s physical actions. The amount of energy expanded is supposedly equal to moderate to vigorous exercise, but that is no alternative to getting oneself in the dirt.

 

Gaming can be made a positive and pleasurable activity for children with limited screen time, parent participation, and careful selection of age-appropriate content. Violent games are known to make children more aggressive and less sensitive to gore and brutality. A study by National Center for Biological Information study reports that teenagers playing violent games are four times more likely to carry a weapon to school.

 

Teenagers spend close to 9 hours every day consuming some form of media on their devices. Younger children are glued for close to 6 hours. All these technologies are here to stay and have their benefits. But their adverse implications cannot be understated. Instead of blanket bans, which rarely work, the key is for parents to be a part of their children’s experience, encourage a transparent and healthy dialogue, while reinforcing constructive usage from an early age.

 

One of the best ways to do this is to teach kids to differentiate between positive and negative information. Usage should be regulated and backed by a clear purpose. Keeping a child busy on an iPad so that you can complete household chores shouldn’t be the norm. Rules defining duration, purpose and setting must be laid. Examples of tech CEOs such as Steve Jobs whose kids did not have iPads until they reached a certain age and Chris Anderson who did not allow his children to take devices to their bedrooms form a case-in-point.