Technology for Kids: To Help and To Hurt

A gentle breeze gently rocks the empty swing set and it sighs with a loud creak, piercing through the thick cloud of deathly silence. The hollow metal pipes that hold up the slides whistle as the wind shifts through them. If the playground wasn’t in such pristine condition, it could almost be mistaken for being abandoned. Yet, its emptiness could only be attributed to young children forgetting to frequent it, their heads buried in their tablets, computers, and iPads instead.

The scarcity of children in playgrounds is becoming more prevalent every day. With the technological boom of the 21st century, children prefer PlayStations to parks, texting to talking. As they’re exposed to phones, computers, and other electronic devices from the day they’re born, both at home and school, kids have slowly started to become addicted to their devices. While this continuous engagement enables children to develop technological expertise, it has its negative impacts on childhood development as well.

Firstly, it weakens the social skills of children. Excessive screen use reduces the time spent face to face with family and friends. As kids migrate to virtual methods as the primary way of connecting with people, communication skills are put in jeopardy. Children lose the ability to identify and grasp basic social cues such as tone, facial expressions, and eye contact which is crucial to effectively socialize with others. Inability to function in a social environment is problematic in the long run, and potentially leads to the development of severe social anxiety.

The physical health of kids is also compromised because of technology overuse. Excessive screen time can prevent children from going out to play to get fresh air and exercise. Limited movement coupled with mindless (and often unhealthy) snacking can increase the risk of obesity and its associated health issues. Such dramatic physical changes can put children at the risk of bullying and poor self-esteem and self-image, in addition to health complications.

Poor mental health is also facilitated by technology. Children who spend more time on media are more likely to experience issues related to mental health, the most widely reported one being depression. This has led to higher suicide rates and elevated levels of counseling requirements among children and teenagers. Without regulation, children are exposed to various harmful content online that subjects their looks and personality to increased scrutiny. The cyber-world is a real threat to both their privacy and mental health.

Other health-related issues also result from sleep deprivation that stems from technology abuse. Sleep is essential for the body to recharge and replenish itself but as a result of device use, kids are not getting enough rest. A study from JAMA Pediatrics showed that children who used media before bed were two times more likely to not get ample sleep in the night, and the quality of sleep was greatly compromised. Sleep aids heart health, increases attention span, promotes learning and growth, and regulates weight. When it is jeopardized, it can lead to several long-term health challenges.

Reduced attention span is another effect of the overuse of electronic devices. Social media, video games, etc. all provide immediate gratification but this does not necessarily translate into real life. When kids do not immediately receive responses and rewards from their external environment, they become distracted and lose concentration leading to poor attention spans. Technology also encourages multitasking which can be occasionally helpful but concurrently, it inhibits the ability to focus on one task at a time. Shorter attention spans reduce general learning capabilities in school and the ability to efficiently complete work on time, leading to poor academic performances.

Despite all of these negative aspects, children benefit from technology as well. Technology enhances traditional classroom teaching by utilizing creative methods of presenting academic material, such as videos, simulations, projectors, etc. This fosters a greater curiosity to learn in children as the content is more stimulating. Furthermore, as the internet provides information in the blink of an eye, children can quickly access any material they require. In case they struggle with any concepts, the search for methods to learn them is not arduous as there are multiple techniques available to instantly exploit.

Apart from academic purposes, technology permits children to learn about various topics and get an in-depth understanding of the same. Learning more about the world promotes social and cultural awareness, and fosters values such as respect, inclusion, and tolerance.

Creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills are promoted by technology as well. Numerous online games and workshops generate problems for children to solve and by discovering approaches to these situations, children improve their analytical thinking. The solutions that they come up with online can be later implemented into real-life conditions.

Technology also permits children to connect with others over similar interests. If they do not find those around them who enjoy their interests, the Internet is full of communities where they can bond with others who do share their hobbies. It fosters a sense of inclusion and helps in the development of their personality and identity. Freedom of expression on these forums is also made possible, leading to feelings of independence and empowerment.

As children begin to develop specialized interests, technology is an incredible platform to showcase their achievements. Technology has appeared in every walk of life and is a powerful tool for boosting any passion and career in and out of IT. In addition, by harvesting the potential of those who specifically gravitate towards tech from a young age, we can prepare children extremely well for a successful career in technology.

At the end of the day, technology affects kids in both positive and negative ways. If employed and regulated correctly, it is a powerful tool to encourage positive change in the world and inculcate important knowledge for these future changemakers.

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