It occurred to me recently that children born anywhere up to ten years ago are going to have a vastly different childhood to ours. My experience of state-of-the-art technology progressed slowly from Walkmans, to CD players, to a Nokia 3210, and eventually my own slow computer and laptop.
Children today are getting their parents to buy them smartphones and tablets with more processing power than all of my childhood technology combined. We don’t yet know how today’s technology will affect children differently to how our technology affected us.
Read on for a breakdown of popular reasons for and against children possessing mobile technology.
One of the biggest differences children of today will have from us, is the way in which they interact socially. Instead of going round each other’s houses to talk and catch up, kids now constantly text, Skype, or do something similar. The question that concerns some people is whether they will turn into adults who behave the same way socially as we do.
Text-speak has already become very commonplace in schools. I can see why too; it allows you to express a viewpoint very quickly. Instead of saying, ‘that’s pretty funny’, just substitute ‘lol’. One school is so concerned that children will start substituting text-speak for regular language that it’s decided to ban text-speak within school grounds.
Kids Are Very Adaptable to Technology
Children have incredibly adaptable minds and skill sets, which is why most primary-school children can figure out how to use a smartphone faster than a 50-year-old. It is this adaptability that keeps kids one step ahead of the previous generation, since their minds can easily take in what is already the height of technology as their ‘starting point’.
By giving children access to technology like smartphones and tablets, it is gearing them up for a world which is destined to become more and more enveloped in gadgetry. If parents denied their children modern technology, would those children struggle with future technology, while their friends adapted immediately?
Most mobile devices today have Internet access. All children need to do when they are curious about something is search it on the web, where they will find tonnes of accurate information.
However, some people think that ‘instant knowledge’ for kids isn’t as beneficial as it may seem…
Googling, Not Learning
Google and Wikipedia have made doing homework so much easier. Frankly, it’s borderline cheating. My own younger brother gets most of his French homework done with Google Translate, and then copies it while checking the grammar.
The problem with Googling content is that unless the topic has interest or meaning to the child, they aren’t going to learn it. Children will learn enough from Google results to ‘get by’, thinking that if they ever need information again, they can return to Google. It is this depedence and laissez-faire attitude to learning that is worrying many parents.
The Real World
Many parents worry that if their children have too wide an access to the ‘real world’, they will grow up too fast. If a 12-year-old found their way onto Reddit, would their behaviour be altered by the content there, or for that matter, any other content on the internet? I myself think that most older children and early teens are smart enough to keep their lives and what they see online separate.
My own parents were hesitant about giving me too many things to ‘distract’ me from my school work, especially around study time. One exam season I yanked the SIM card out of my phone just to stop them nagging me to get off it. The internet is a huge temptation when you are supposed to be knuckling down and studying. Few kids want to learn the formula for the volume of a sphere, when they could be sat on Reddit, or chatting with mates.
Overall, I am neutral on this whole issue. Although I think it’s a good idea to keep kids up-to-date with technology, I’m unsure as to whether the effects this might have on their learning and social development will be for better or worse. Any anecdotes as to how this has affected you or your family?