From Ebuyer.com 23/09/2015. You can read the original article here
We’ve recently pondered the impact that various mediums of technology can have on the fragile development of a child’s health and mental state. After evaluating what numerous academic studies suggest, it was clear that some negative effects can occur from an over-indulgence in various sectors of modern technology.
Just as each study may warn us of the detrimental effects of tech on children, there also plenty of pointers for harnessing the power of technology for good in children’s lives.
The Tech Generation
As we mentioned in our previous coverage on the subject, technology is proven tool for increasing child engagement in education, and ultimately academic success- particularly amongst kids who are struggling in class. Rather than sit here and provide you with parenting advice coming straight from the mouth of a child-less 23-year old however, I’ll point you in the direction of ongoing projects that look to embrace the inevitable growth in the digital lifestyle.
For parents, the pace at which technology advances is hard to fathom. If you aren’t considered a digital native (1980 may be the cut-off point), keeping up can be a thankless task. Still, one word sums up the endeavour of using technology in parenting- engagement. Children are completely emerged in technology from such early ages today (as we saw in the usage results from CHILDWISE). Rather than dismissing its potential or using it as a means to just keep kids quiet, research proves that technology can lead to positive impacts in a child’s mental state and educational progression (again, refer back to our partnered piece for details). Parents could do worse than to re-evaluate their preconceptions on the impact of technology on children, and look to harness its potential.
One man who is looking to do exactly that is Sacha Visram from GloGlu. Their Wearable device “Brillar”, currently on crowdfunding site Indiegogo, uses technology to keep children happy, active and safe.
Whilst Visram pointed towards evidence that somewhat justifies the parental fears of a children becoming obese and socially recluse (pointing towards similar evidence from CHILDWISE to that in our article on the subject), but offers GloGlu as an example of the opportunities parents have with technology.
“The YouTube generation is screen addicted and kids are less active than they used to be. Less than 10% of 5 to 9 year-olds play real-world games indoors or outdoors, down from 40% in the 1990s.” Visram said.
“At the same time the growth of mobile and wearable technology is opening up new opportunities – a new generation of games is redefining the gaming experience for children.”
“Most technology is either geared towards adults or children, but there are few experiences and devices that are built for joint experiences or for combining technology experiences with real-world play.”
“Developers such as GloGlu are creating devices and games to address the sedentary gaming experience of the past.”
Plugging the Skills Gap
The ever-modernising jobs market is another key area in which children may be missing out. The government overhauled the primary school computing programme in 2014, phasing out a focus on computer literacy that no longer prepares children adequately enough for life beyond education. In its place, children as young as 5 now undertake a course much more steeped in computer science.
The new curriculum was designed with the support of Microsoft and Google, who were leading the vehicle for change. Complaints from tech’s biggest names were commonplace, as they felt the schooling system was leading to a significant shortage of qualified candidates for IT jobs. As our digital lives become more prominent, so too does the employment landscape needed to power that digital emphasis. As Visram suggests:
“Technology as we know it has brought about this change and it is now changing education, the way we spend our free time and the way we work.”
“If your child lacks native technology skills they risk being marginalised not just in their future career but in their social life as well.”
To help them along, each year 7 child (11 and 12-year olds) will receive a BBC funded micro-computer. Announced in July but since delayed until 2016, the Micro Bit is a pocket-sized computer that they hope will inspire younger generations to innovate with coding computers. Computing in education has received a much needed overhaul, and projects like the BBC’s Micro Bit will only aid in enflaming the imagination of today’s digital natives.
Aside from the educational and employment benefits children could adopt through tech, we’ve also previously touched on the potential drawbacks on a child’s health and safety. Sites like Safer Internetcontain a series of useful resources for ensuring child safety when using the internet and various tech devices. Monitoring a child’s activity online and using parental tools can help protect younger generations from the darker corners of the web and the negative effects technology can bring.
“Children are safe to game online but the right controls and protections need to be put in place.”
“Parenting today is perhaps more demanding than ever, but we mustn’t forget there is technology available to help!”
It’s that final comment from Sacha Visram that needs to be held above all the often exaggerated and sensationalised attacks on various tech industries for their connection to child obesity and a perceived detrimental impact on social skills. Growth in technology use among children is only going to continue. It’s the responsility of the industry and parents alike to create technology that engages and enthuses children.
As the evidence suggests, improvement in a child’s physical and mental health will follow, as will their prospects for the future.