Young children are born into a digital world and it is not unusual to see preschool children intuitively swiping screens and confidently pressing buttons and this makes adults marvel.
There is much debate about the impact of the increased access to technology on young children’s health and wellbeing with claims that it damages their social skills and emotional development.
This piece examines how developments in technology, particularly mobile and touch screen technology, have impacted children’s lives and how when used appropriately it can support all aspects of their development.
If you’re a parent or you have kids under your care, here are some facts published by UNICEF to pay attention to;
- Youth (ages 15–24) is the most connected age group. Worldwide, 71 per cent are online compared with 48 per cent of the total population.
- Children and adolescents under 18 account for an estimated one in three internet users around the world. A growing body of evidence indicates that children are accessing the internet at increasingly younger ages. In some countries, children under 15 are as likely to use the internet as adults over 25.
- Smartphones are fuelling a ‘bedroom culture’, with online access for many children becoming more personal, more private and less supervised. Connectivity can be a game changer for some of the world’s most marginalized children, helping them fulfil their potential and break intergenerational cycles of poverty.
Digital technologies are bringing opportunities for learning and education to children, especially in remote regions and during humanitarian crises. Digital technologies also allow children to access information on issues that affect their communities and can give them a role in helping to solve them. Digital technologies can deliver economic opportunity by providing young people with training opportunities and job-matching services, and by creating new kinds of work.
Beyond the harm to individual children that digital technology can enable or abet is its capacity to incite violence on a massive scale that affects the lives and future of hundreds of thousands of children. The internet is all of these things, reflecting and amplifying the best and worst of human nature. It is a tool that will always be used for good and for ill.
Our job as parents, guardians or tutors is to mitigate the harms and expand the opportunities digital technology makes possible. It’s time we surveyed the landscape of digital opportunity as it relates to – and affects – children, examine the digital divides that prevent millions of children from accessing through the internet new opportunities to learn and, someday, to participate in the digital economy, helping to break intergenerational cycles of poverty. Let us also explore the undeniably dark side of the internet and digital technology, from cyberbullying to online child sexual abuse to Dark web transactions and currencies that can make it easier to conceal trafficking and other illegal activities that harm children.
We all need to be active in reviewing some of the debates about less obvious harms children may suffer from living in a digital age – from digital dependencies to the possible impact of digital technology on brain development and cognition and outline practical recommendations that can help guide more effective policymaking and more responsible business practices to benefit children in a digital age.
One more important issue is to put into consideration the perspectives of children and young people on the impact of digital technology in their lives by allowing them to tell their own stories about the issues that most affect them.
Remember their voices matter and the digital world has given them a platform to express themselves even without parental supervision.
This is the day and age when we all help shape the future for the kids in this digital age. Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.