Pros And Cons Of Children And Technology Interaction

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Children are spending more time on smartphones and they are mostly accessing social media and playing video games. They are not using this opportunity to learn new things or gain more knowledge. The amount of time spent on unproductive activities on screens has been affecting children in multiple ways. Technology is almost everywhere and it is changing continuously. It will always be a part of our lives and grow even more. So, instead of demonizing technology and screen time, we need to understand the benefits of it and how to utilize most of it without harming ourselves and the children.

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The preteens and young teens face dangers on social media that includes risks like identity theft, personal safety, access to disturbing and inappropriate content, and an increase in mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety etc. These kids also become targets of cyberbullying or become a cyberbully. “In 2012, only 41% of teens had smartphone compared to 89% of teens in 2018 in United States”. This means it has significantly increased, in fact more than doubled. 57% of teens agree that using social media often diverts their mind when they are doing assignments or projects.” 29% of teenagers phone owners said that they’ve been disturbed by their smartphones during the night by a call, text, or notification”. 42% of teens in 2018 agree that social media has taken away their valuable time that can be spent with loved ones, compared to 34% in 2012. The value of in-person communication is decreasing day by day. In 2012, 49% teens preferred this method of communication but in 2018, it decreased to 32%. “The teens from the survey also said that if parents knew what actually happens on social media, 54% of teens said they’d be lot more worried about it”. All this data combined tells us how much of an increase in screen time has been observed within six years, and how much it has affected the mental as well as physical health and communication preferences.

One of the biggest side effects of social media is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a form of harassment or bullying using digital communication tools. Children and teenagers who experience cyberbullying can end up being bullied at school as well. “There was a steady increase in the number of cyberbullying studies published during the 3-year review period: 1 each in 2013 and 2014 (4.5%, respectively), 7 in 2014 (31.8%), and 11 in 2015 (50%)”. Cyberbullying usually leaves the victims with lowered self-esteem, less interest in school and low academic achievement. They might also feel lonely and isolated. Cyberbullying can lead to mental health issues like depression, anxiety, changes in sleep cycle/insomnia, stress and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. Some victims of cyberbullying feel they have no safe place.

For a long time, humans have preferred the method of social learning and face-to-face communication. But, in recent years, the extensive amount of time that children engage with these devices is taking time away from in person communication. “The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, found that children who went five days without exposure to technology were significantly better at reading human emotions than kids who had regular access to phones, television and computers” (Summers, 2014). This study helps us realize the importance of face-to-face communication, and how it is being affected with increased screen usage. In this study, researcher studied two groups of children of sixth graders from a Southern California Public School.

Apart from all the risks and negative effects of social media, there are some possible benefits of social media and/or digital screens. Children can enhance their personal growth and have access to unlimited knowledge that they can grasp. Social media has created a community or a space for humans who are more isolated, and it has also given a platform for neglected communities like LGBTQIA+. Children are becoming more open-minded and welcoming through time and technology. They can also increase the bond with their family members and protect their physical safety by using their smartphones wisely. There are also benefits for children reaching outside their inner circles to make new friends, possibly from more diverse backgrounds. By identifying with likeminded individuals, children can participate in group discussions and collaborations for projects and thus enhance their feelings of self-worth.

Most of the parents are always concerned about how much time and on what they are spending their time. There are few ways that parents can get involved and keep a check on their children. Parents can ask their child to hand over the phone at certain points of time so that it does not become a distraction for the child, especially during homework or family time. A parent can obtain the child’s login information or password to keep a check on the content the child is viewing or using. They should have a conversation with their child regarding cyberbullying and the acceptable and unacceptable behaviour online. They should take their child’s phone away at least two hours before bedtime to ensure a proper good night sleep.

The key is to help teens learn how to balance social media with their real-life friendship is to keep the medium of communication open and always keep talking to them. Honest communication with teenagers shows that parents are there to support, not to judge or to give them a lecture. “Disconnect on weekends and show a child that there is a whole world out there that doesn’t require a handheld screen”. “They may miss their mobile phone a lot less and this can be a very good lesson to learn” (Hurley, 2019). The mobile technology in this century has enabled today’s youth to access anything and everything 24/7 anywhere. Children get influenced and attached to these devices from the very first day. Children are vey easy to mould at a very young age and such devices can bend these little ones’ minds in different ways. A device is just a tool that we use for our benefits. But a child does not know the difference between what is right or wrong for them. Technology can be beneficial or destructive. The parents should be aware of what their child accesses on their device or the internet and also educate them so that they avoid the wrongdoings.

Children overusing or misusing such devices and platforms can lead to multiple mental health disorders. They might become a victim of cyberbullying or become a cyberbully if not supervised correctly. Keeping risks aside, social media platforms or digital technology can also provide a child with tons of benefits. It lets one connect with other peers, and family; also, a child can gain tremendous amount of knowledge through technology. The answer to a better and efficient way to use this tool is moderation. Parents should not only always keep a check on their children from misusing the tool, but also be vigilant about what their children are surfing on the internet whether it could harm them in the long run. Doing so, would help children use this tool more efficiently.

14 May 2021

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