Technology and children: growing up in the digital age.
The invention of smartphones in 2007, together with other handheld devices such as tablets, has created a huge digital gap between parents and kids born in 1995 and after. Digitally speaking, these kids are “digital natives” while their parents, most of who were born in the 80s or earlier, are “digital immigrants. The parents know something about technology, but not enough to match their kids, hence the huge digital discrepancy.
On average, children spend almost an hour per day staring at their handheld screens, which limits their physical exercise time. This explains why obesity rates in children worldwide have grown from about 4% in the 70s, to almost 20% in the late 2010s. These rates don’t, however, tell the whole story as child psychologists haven’t found a conclusive correlation between technology and its effect on kids’ behavior and development. It’s for this reason that we explore these 4 possible effects of technology and the internet on children, particularly teens and tweens.
Fun Raspberry Pi projects for kids
The Raspberry Pi has brought with it tons of computing possibilities for both kids and adults with little to no programming or coding expertise. You can, for example, use Raspberry Pi 4 to drive multiple 4K screens at a go, which will enable you and your kids to come up with incredibly useful, kid-friendly tech creations. These creations are also made possible by the Pi’s high-tech features such as dual-band Wi-Fi, 1GB RAM, and Bluetooth 5.0. These creations include:
- You can modify how characters in YouTube videos behave by writing short programs on Minecraft Application Programming Interface (API), a programming language built on Minecraft Raspberry Pi Edition.
- A Pi (which is fundamentally a mini-computer) can be used to build a computer that can support software and programs such as spreadsheets, word processors, and calculators, among other basics. You will need to install Linux, software that incorporates Raspian and Pidora, and a set of USB peripherals to create the computer.
- The Raspberrian OS comes with visual programming languages (e.g. Scratch) that kids can use to create video games from scratch.
- Raspberry Pi 4 can also be used to build a weather station.
Digital learning has become a better alternative to face-to-face learning
Unlike in the past when learners could only interact with educators and learning resources at school, today’s kids can study from anywhere and at any time thanks to digital learning technology. Recorded class sessions, for example, help slow learners to go back and re-attend classes at their own pace. Digital learning technology has also brought advanced tools like lab simulations, which enable learners to conduct science experiments remotely- without necessarily going to a physical lab!
Online classes, through tools like Zoom, have also come in handy during the coronavirus pandemic by making connected learning possible. The usefulness of connected learning might long outlive the coronavirus- and social distancing- era. From the teachers’ and parents’ perspectives, digital technology has helped them track the progress- both strengths and weaknesses- of their kids, which helps them nurture their kids’ talents and strengths more effectively. What’s more, digital learning is far more fun than in-person classroom learning!
Cyberbullying has become more prevalent than physical bullying
Bullies nowadays hide behind keyboards. What’s even trickier with cyberbullying is that most cyberbullies are adults, way older than your kid, unlike physical school bullies who are mostly about your kid’s age. Not that peer-to-peer bullying is any better, but adult bullying can precipitate more dire emotional and mental distress in children. Underage cyberbullying victims often suffer chronic anxiety, depression, humiliation, the feeling of powerlessness, low self-esteem, and fear, all of which can negatively affect their academic and social life. In extreme cases, cyber-bullied kids become suicidal.
Digital creativity is key to children’s cognitive development
Technology promotes joy and understanding in kids, creative skills, and motivates them to pursue goals and be innovative, both in and out of school. It helps kids to connect ideas and disciplines, which then helps them make sense of their surroundings right from a young age. Technology has also brought with it many Information and Communications Technology (ICT) platforms where kids collaborate with their peers, share ideas, and express their creativity, and sometimes make a few bucks (e.g. on YouTube) from their creations. Increased social interactions and collaboration help kids grow their cognitive abilities.
Technology will continue to have both positive and negative impacts on our children. Evidently, the positives outweigh the negatives, but the negatives cannot be overlooked. That is why it is incumbent upon parents and educators to work on mitigating the negative effects and to create an environment that allows kids to fully enjoy and benefit from technology.