The Technology Age
Gadgets have shaped the way we do everything from communicating to seeing the world and can only serve to make a child’s life better. How much technology is too much to raise your child around? Electronics are now everywhere from your family’s desktop to the tablet you use on vacation. Your son’s laptop and even your daughter’s cell phone. There are all sorts of educational benefits to letting a child use a computer, but there are also serious risks to consider.
This is one of the most well-known arguments against the constant use of gadgets. By using computers, smartphones, tablets, etc, children are not getting any exercise. Instead of getting a group of neighborhood kids together to go play soccer at the park, you can just play FIFA on your Playstation. If you want fresh air, just take your laptop outside and check your Tumblr from out there. Getting hungry? Don’t worry, you can stay connected on your cell phone while you wait the two minutes for your microwaved burrito to heat up. Getting exercise is necessary for keeping off weight, getting enough energy (and burning the excess) and even maintaining happiness. In children it is also hugely important in their physical and mental development, so make sure your child has a limit on the amount of time they can spend in front of a screen.
False Sense of Reality
The internet is a great place to learn fake statistics and false information presented as fact. Did you know that 75% of children and adolescents believe everything they read online? Just kidding, we made up that statistic (even if it sounds pretty accurate.) Not to harp on Wikipedia – after all, everyone does that enough – but it is not exactly the most credible source for reliable information. Having said that, it is one of the most popular encyclopedias and the most successful one online. Even with all of the flack that knows from Math class. Even so, the internet creates this false sense of reality, one that often contradicts itself. It seems that for every topic of conversation (even undisputable facts) there is always going to be two sides. Make sure your child understand how to use the internet to find real, reliable information and not just some opinion piece created by some freelance blogger somewhere who did the minimal amount of research so they could meet a deadline…
With the whole world of information at your fingertips, who has to remember anything? People used to pride themselves on being walking encyclopedias but with Wikipedia and Google only seconds away, who needs to remember information for themselves anymore? If you find your child is having trouble remembering things, it could be a sign that their development is being hindered in some way. The time spent on gadgets may be to blame. Try to limit the use of gadgets for a while and see if the problem improves. You could also try to limit the use to one gadget at a time. Talk to your kids about the things they have researched online to help them retain the information.
With computers and gadgets readily available, who even needs to know how to write anymore? People used to spend hours practicing their handwriting and their signatures, today you can just find a nice font and go with it. Okay, we know you’re probably wondering if this is really a risk, but within the decade, this seemingly silly idea could become a real issue. Seriously, compare your handwriting skills today to what they were a few years ago. Chances are, they have not improved one bit. In fact, they have probably gotten much worse. Some schools have even stopped teaching cursive as it is no longer a necessary form of communication. The fact that we have to have handwriting challenges via Tumblr should give some indication of this growing concern…
Click through and you’re there. Bored with it? Keep clicking and clicking until you find something better. Technology has given us a wonderful feel for instant entertainment. We barely have any loading time at all and when we do it’s nothing compared to what people used to have to wait through to get something done. With the instant results of typing a phrase and getting where you need to go, who wants to do anything that involves waiting? We don’t even have to watch television the same anymore. While past generations had to wait for a week until the next episode came on, we can watch whole seasons of our favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu. If you get bored, just shut it off and go listen to a playlist on Spotify while you play Angry Birds on your iPad. Bored with that first level, okay, hop on Facebook and play a game there. When you’re bored with that, you can read a chapter on your Kindle or something. See the problem? Who wants to sit through a lecture in class or endure a long dinner when you could be texting your friends?
It seems that everything that can be used for good can be used to bad as well. The gadgets created to make our lives easier can also serve to make them miserable. Problems like cyberbullying are becoming a real issue. It is not uncommon to hear about a student who injured themselves (or worse) after the humiliation caused by something posted online. Back in the day, you used to worry about getting shoved in a locker by the school bully, but this coming generation seems to be taking it to the next level. With the entire internet at their fingertips, an embarrassing photo can go viral in a day or a very personal text message can make its way to everyone in school in record time. There have even been bloggers, YouTube and Twitter users who have recorded disrespectful acts to get more readers or viewers. A YouTube user went around commenting on videos saying “if I get _______ likes, I’ll throw something new at my teacher” and his videos featured him hiding, then throwing everything from an egg to a milkshake at his unsuspecting teacher. While most people know this is unacceptable behavior, in another decade, will “pranks” like this become commonplace?
Respect for Self
It seems that self-respect is becoming a bit of a grey area. We’re taught that a good appearance is a mark of self-respect, however, it seems that with technology, anything goes. It usually starts with the way a young person will try to present themselves online. They see the sort of photos that will get them some attention (even bad attention) and try to imitate them. This is how you end up with young guys posting a bunch of shirtless pictures of themselves all over their Instagram and Facebook. This is also how you get young ladies making provocative poses in every photo. Sure, we’re all guilty of trying to look “cute” to get the attention of our high school crush, but the difference between wearing your hair a certain way at school and posting inappropriate photos online is disturbing. It’s important to help your kids understand that the internet is not private and the things posted may never go away, especially if someone saves them for their personal viewing. You may also want to warn them that they may end up with attention from people they are not interested in, and that even if someone is interested now, photos and things can come back to haunt them later.
Do you know the difference between “your” and “you’re”? How about “affect” vs “effect”? Unfortunately, grammar has taken a backseat through the internet and this could shape the coming generations in a very real way. To ensure proper grammar and spelling were being used, previous generations could look to books or professional signs to make sure they were in line with what was proper. By being constantly inundated with good grammar, we were being constantly reminded of what it looked like and what the rules were. This coming generation is much more likely to do their reading online and takes a toll on their skills. Sure, everyone gets a little lazy with spelling online and in text messages but with more practice texting or blogging than doing schoolwork or anything that requires professional-level writing, your kids may suffer in their written communication skills.
Remember back in the day when you wanted to make a friend? You’d have to actually go talk to them and get to know them a little bit before inviting them to hang out. This isn’t the case anymore with the technology age in full effect. For preteens and teenagers between middle school and college age, making “friends” is as simple as adding them on Facebook or following their photos on Instagram. Instead of establishing and investing in real, close-knit relationships where there is mutual respect and interest, this way of connecting online encourages observation much more than involvement. Before, you would have to ask about and remember details about your friends such as favorite movies, their birthday and other intimate details that only loved ones would know. Today, it has become general information that you could know just by looking over their social media profiles. It creates the illusion of intimacy even if the two don’t know one another very well.
Something that seems to have come with the growing popularity of social media is a problem with sharing too much. On Facebook alone, there is a space to fill out just about every detail about you including cities lived in, closest friends, likes and dislikes, and even work or relationship history. We’ve all been fascinated with the idea of being able to share this way but for children and teenagers who have grown up observing the way social media sites work, they may feel it is reality. Without any guidance about it, younger people may believe there is nothing wrong with giving out personal information. Beyond that, they may feel it is acceptable to openly broadcast very personal parts of their lives. Without proper guidance, the coming generation may have completely different social cues. For example, today we know that a breakup is something you can vent to a best friend or family member about but don’t make a huge deal about it in public, especially to acquaintances or strangers. In another decade, you may find that everyone is much more open about the information they feel comfortable sharing even without knowing you very well.
A high selling point of technology comes from social media and gaining readership online. For children and adolescents, a big step in development is feeling accepted and understood. Thanks to online destinations like a blog or Twitter, everyone has a platform to be heard from. Many people will use the internet as a place to vent or try to join a conversation and it can be very effective. Unfortunately, for the still developing mind, this can give an unrealistic sense of self. A problem with growing up in such an environment is that even though it may be a popular reality online, the respect or notoriety usually does not follow into their everyday life. It is important to help your teenager try to understand that having a popular blog, or thousands of followers on Twitter, does not guarantee that the whole world is going to treat them the same as their readers do.
This is, of course, the most important thing to consider when thinking about technology and children. You need to keep your children safe in their everyday lives AND their internet lives.
Ignorance is the biggest risk of safety when dealing with technology. You may hear the stories of children who have been kidnapped but think it could never happen to yours. Don’t be so sure because no matter who your kid is, the risk is still there as long they are not being protected. Take the necessary steps to use the parental settings on all of the gadgets your kids will be using. If you have given a child a cell phone for emergency use, you may also look into a parental app so you can track where they are or talk to your service provider to see what they have available to safeguard your children.
You must also talk to them about the information they are sharing and check in on it occasionally. Never allow them to post their phone numbers, address or other personal bits of information that could be used to track them and if they are using social media, set their profiles to private so that only their approved friends can see the things they post.
Photography: Serina Sara Sparkman
Model: Seth Hagy aka Mr Bookworm