With new technology being ‘the way forward’ and ‘essential’ in our day-to-day lives, one question that is still something that parents often think about is, is technology today ruining our children’s lives? Ulster University student Aoife Reilly reports.
Although we are in the 21st Century and digital technology is anywhere and everywhere, in 2017, it is not unusual for children to be seen walking about with a smart phone or a tablet constantly in their hands. From such a young age, we see children subconsciously swiping and confidently pressing buttons as if they were born knowing how to do it.
When we, as adults today, reminisce of our own childhood activities, we automatically think back to going outside to play hide and seek, cycling around on our bikes and even sometimes something as simple as kicking a football around with our neighbours we were at our happiest. These fond childhood memories play a major part and are essential for older people today to look back on to try to understand the issues that are facing children today.
However, for children now a days, because they are introduced to technology at such a young age, some of the games and outdoor activities that were popular a mere 20 years ago, are quite literally oblivious to them because new technologies have taken over and they would rather play a game on their iPad than outside in the fresh air.
It has gotten to the point in today’s world that many children, from as young as the age of 2 or 3, are now able to fully work and control tablets, laptops, smart phones and games consoles better than someone a lot older than them. With this, they can often begin to teach their own parents and grandparents new things and how to use them correctly.
‘growing up with lack of key life skills such as being able to read or riding a bike’
Since we are now in the digital media age where tablets and smart phones are a central part of our day to day lives, it is becoming somewhat clear that these pieces of technology are aiding children in ways, with iPads now being introduced into schools. However, from research conducted recently in 2014, it has been revealed that children, who have been introduced to new technology such as smart phones and tablets at a very young age, are more than likely growing up with a lack of key life skills such as being able to read or riding a bike.
It is often for some very hard to come to terms with the fact that we no longer can look out our windows on Christmas day and see children out playing with their new bikes or toys because they have either gotten the newest games console or a brand new iPhone.
Often when parents want a bit of peace and quiet they will hand their young children their tablets and games consoles, which will keep them occupied for as long as they need and more than often not, in restaurants you will see children sat at the table playing on their iPad or watching something on their parent’s phone just so they won’t kick up a fuss. While parents do give in to allowing their children to watch TV or use their tablets just so they can have some peace and quiet, they do secretly worry what this screen time is doing to their children’s brains.
“I think it has got worse over the last number of years”
Speaking to social care worker Deborah Reilly, she expressed her opinion on the matter explaining, “I think it has got worse over the last number of years,” while believing that “children are at risk of bullying.” To hear the full interview with Deborah, click here.
It is not only parents and those who are much older who have become very much aware of how technology is taking over our lives, but more significantly, our children’s, but also young adults such as students. A post was written by a student on Facebook recently expressed, “Our elders will never understand how hard it is to grow up in this day and age…Technology (has) took over. We live most of our lives staring at our phones.”
Jonathan Maitland’s ITV Tonight programme, ‘Too young for technology?’ revealed that, by the time children start school at the age of 3 or 4, 70 per cent of them will already be confident in using a laptop, tablet or smart phone. In the same programme, it was also revealed that 47 per cent of parents think that it is important for a child to be familiar with technology before school, while 17 per cent of children under three actually owns their own smart phone or tablet.
’17 per cent of children under 3 own a smart phone or tablet’
For anyone who has children of their own, who allows them, from a young age to use these technologies, this will appear as a shock and often they will not realise the impact of technology on young children until they see statistics, like the ones above, placed in front of them.
On average, it is said that children from as young as the age of 3 are spending almost 8 hours of their day with their eyes glued to technology and it is now on the rise. Not only is screen time on the increase, most parents today are unaware of what their children are actually watching or viewing when they are online.
In recent years, it has come to the attention of media professionals, such as Ofcom and a huge concern that more and more children are watching real or staged violence online and are playing video games that are violent or contain other age-inappropriate content.
Although bodies such as the Games Rating Agency, GRA, deal with what age goes on the game, more than not children are getting their hands on games, which are not for their correct age group. With this, children are often led to believe that what they watch online or see in video games is ok to do and is somewhat legal which is why parents should be a lot more aware of what their children are watching online.
With social media on the increase and more and more people using it, it will be a shock to anyone at what the age restrictions are as it is often overlooked and forgotten about.
To create an account on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat etc., you have to be 13 years or older and to sign up to YouTube you have to be 18 years of age, although you can sign up at 13 with a parents permission. However, at least 78 per cent of users ignored the age requirements and are under 13 years of age.
’78 percent of users ignore the age requirements’
In 2006, the National Crime Agency (NCA), Jim Gamble and Peter Davies set up the organisation ‘Child Exploitation and Online Protection’, CEOP, to help protect the public from the most serious threats by disrupting and bringing to justice those serious and organised criminals who present the highest risk to the UK.
It is important to make sure that children are feeling safe online, so by parents keeping an eye on what websites they are visiting and whom they are talking to, this will be guaranteed.
The students at Ulster University, Coleraine and Queens University, Belfast expressed their thoughts on the topic with many sharing how different young children have it compared to their own childhood with iPhones non-existent.
“not experiencing the kind of childhood that I did”
One student in particular, Malcolm Lyttle felt that “children are already too dependent on their devices that they have in their hand and they are not experiencing the kind of childhood that I did.” To find out what the other students thought, click here..
Although screen time does not just mean children being on their tablets or on their laptops playing games, this also involves watching TV and YouTube. With YouTube and catch up TV becoming increasingly popular over the last several years, it seems that a child would rather sit down and watch something from their tablet than sit in front of a TV.
Not only does this allow children to watch what they want when they want, it also means that they are able to find new programmes and new content other than what you’d find on TV.
For anyone who may feel at risk of being bullied, threatened or in any way attacked online should visit the website, www.ceop.police.uk, where you are able to get more information on how to report the situation.