Updated: Apr 6, 2019
There is no doubt that children nowadays are already more high tech experts than many adults, we can state that this is a scenario where children are "growing up digital, and definitely companies are aware about that.
It is amazing how these youngsters are becoming increasingly connected with the technological world. Many parents, childcare professionals and educators are amazed at the ease of little ones in learning and dealing with new technologies. It often seems that they are already "born knowing" about everything digital.
Personally, I remember a long time ago (in the 1990s - literally last century) when I had computing classes for beginners, and that was to learn to use MS-DOS, and it is worth remembering that at that time, an important part of the program of the course was to "switch on and switch off a computer". If tell this to a child who is 6 years old, it may seem like a joke, but it serves as a great comparison to illustrate how the world has changed in relation to technology.
Nowadays, for children, the difference between technology, toys and games is becoming increasingly tenuous. To explain this comment, I would like to cite some interesting results from Ofcom's latest research (2018). This study has shown that in the UK, 86% of 3-4 year olds have access to a tablet at home, and 21% have their own tablet. Moreover, according to further research (Statista), between 2013 and 2019, the market for smart toys has grown 600% (just to let you know, the definition for smart toys refers to all toys connected to the Internet).
Considering these changes, what are the actual issues? According to Dr Nicola Yuill (University of Sussex) in an interview about children and technology, the essential point is to know how to measure and impose limits in the midst of so many virtual options that are easy to access. The American Academy of Pediatrics has stated that, up to the age of 2, the ideal scenario is to stay away from TV and other screens. This organization also emphasizes that there is no device that can replace human contact, and recommends that children under one and a half years old should not be exposed to television, computers or tablets. For children 2 to 5 years old, they should spend no more than an hour a day on computers or other screens.
Personally, I consider this to be a challenger. However, it is completely possible for us to encourage our children to enjoy an offline life, for example, by proposing outdoor activities, even the simplest, such as watering the plants in the garden, feeding the birds, helping with some simple housekeeping, cooking together, and of course proposing activities related to creativity, such as crafts and other imaginative games. Doctor Howard Klein, M.D., director of behavioral pediatrics at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore explains that, it is important to bear in mind that children look at us as their personal reference points for their habits. So it is not worth pushing them towards an “analogue lifestyle” if we do not disconnect our smartphones during meals, or do not pay attention when they come home with an exciting piece of art made of spaghetti and plasticine.
For those parents and childcare professionals who are still struggling in terms of youngsters’ screen time, there is a premise that is emphasised by numerous professionals involved with psychology, cyber security and technology: adults should always supervise the content accessed by children, and the main reason for this is that children are not mature enough to assimilate and understand a large part of the content to which they are exposed by the Internet.
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