A few months ago I witnessed my 4-year-old cousin tapping and swiping at a magazine, and I came to the realization that she thought it was an iPad. This got me thinking about how much things have changed over the past decade and how kids today aren’t growing up the same way we did.
Lets face it, kids these days are becoming more isolated then ever before, ironically thanks to technology and social media. They aren’t the same as we were, or any generation before us, due to technological advancements that allow them to connect with their friends and the world online, rather than face-to-face. Is this technological transition harmful to an adolescent’s childhood, or is it simply preparing them for the direction our society is already heading?
Many could argue that it isn’t just children who are facing a technological epidemic, but adults as well. It is safe to say that those of us who are 18+ have likely enjoyed a childhood of real entertainment and experiences involving sport, friendship, and playing in the backyard and so forth. Kids today are being given a mobile phone instead of a bicycle, and their perception of entertainment isn’t the same as ours was, so the consequences for them are more severe. A recent documentary titled ‘Web Junkie’ highlights the tragic effects on teens who become addicted to video games, and studies those who play for dozens of hours at a time and often without breaks to eat, sleep or even to use the bathroom, and brings to light how many of these teens come to view the real world a fake. Even toddlers today are handling their parent’s cellphones and tablets to entertain themselves rather than observing the world around them and interacting socially.
Here’s the trailer for the Web Junkie documentary:
Kids and teens are being exposed to the web and all its glory mostly through social media and mobile phones, giving many children unfiltered, unsupervised access to browse whatever they want. This access to the world is appealing, so kids are deciding to stay indoors and look at their phones rather than enjoying the outdoors.
As a kid, I was never obsessed with going online or anything of that nature because it wasn’t even fun, other than the occasional 2-hour sesh on Miniclip. Internet restrictions were a part of every day life and my Dad even put a timer on our Internet connection ensuring that it was turned off by 9pm every weeknight, lame, I know. IPhones weren’t in the equation, and I am forever proud to say that for my 14th birthday I finally got the ever sought after black Motorola Razor, with essentially 0 Internet access. A poll by the security firm BullGuard revealed that from the parents questioned, over 70% of their children, aged 12 or lower, search the web unsupervised and unrestricted. The parents also advised that they feel pressured into buying their kids the latest gadgets. This increase in unsupervised web access directly correlates with the increasing amounts of Internet usage, because the kids have free roam to do what they like, and there’s no limit to what they can uncover.
When I was younger, I would have so much fun playing with my brothers outside and experiencing the natural world around us. We would jump on the trampoline, build cubby houses and chase each other around the back garden for hours until mum would call us in for dinner. Now all kids do is spend countless hours staring at screens, and the addictive nature of technology leaves children showing signs of withdrawal like a smoker who hasn’t had a cigarette in a while. It’s sad to see my younger cousins at family gatherings spending 80% of their time on either an iPad or iPhone, and the other 20% of the time eating their meal, still checking their phones every 2 minutes.
It is evident that there is an increasing number of kids becoming disconnected from reality due to their captivation with digital technology, which is harming their social skills and having physical health consequences. As the old saying goes, nature or nurture? We can’t blame the kids for using technology when we are the ones who give it to them. If a child sees their parents on the phone, of course they will want to go on the phone as well. I feel that this technological transition is harmful to a child’s upbringing considering that they are missing out on real experiences and are becoming more and more isolated from one another. By moderating a child’s access to the Internet and technological devices, they may feel stimulated and motivated to go outside and socialize the way we all did when we were younger.