Striking the right balance with children and technology

Strong digital literacy skills that stem from a child’s natural curiousity may be beneficial for professional development in later life

Little girls playing on a tablet device

Little girls playing on a tablet device

Thu, Oct 16, 2014, 01:28

It is oft-lamented in parenting circles how the all-pervasive grasp of modern technology is changing not only the lives our children lead, but even the very nature of childhood itself.

A quick browse on the internet will, ironically, open up a world of myriad threats and deceptions lurking around every digital corner which younger generations may be particularly susceptible to.

While there remains much conjecture, and even some unwarranted scaremongering by certain parties on the topic, it is true that a healthy scepticism towards various aspects of our new media world is helpful in safeguarding children.

Take for example a recent survey conducted on behalf of optometry specialists which found that the average child aged 2 to 16 in Britain now spends almost eight hours a day on digital devices, whereas a similar survey conducted in the US produced figures of around seven and a half hours for the average child there.

Of the 2,000 parents who participated in the British research, 39 per cent said their child owned a tablet device, with 38 per cent having ownership of a mobile phone. While it mightn’t appear surprising that children of ages ranging up to 16 would be in possession of such devices, the results also detailed how children aged 2 to 4 spent over five hours a day using digital technology.

Now, depending on which side of the fence you sit, such statistics could be viewed as a point of major concern on various levels. Or, taken differently, some may consider the strong digital literacy skills that inevitably stem from this volume of activity as potentially beneficial for professional development in later life.

In an accompanying blog post on the company’s website a clinical professional outlines how prolonged exposure to high-energy visible (HEV) light emitted by Android and iPhone/iPad devices may have implications in later life.

Specifically, some of the potential repercussions may come in the form of Age-related Macular Degeneration, Computer Vision Syndrome (causing blurred vision, headaches and fatigue, although more prevalent among adults), and the less severe Digital Eye Strain.

Some of the more eyecatching headlines to broach the issue of increased digital exposure among younger generations have included internet security company AVG’s findings earlier this year which indicated that more children aged 3 to 5 who took part in their study knew how to navigate a digital device (69 per cent) than tie their shoelaces (8 per cent), or who to call in an emergency (35 per cent).

More worryingly, a Telegraph article from last year disclosed survey results that revealed how some children were accidentally accessing extremely explicit material such as violent pornography and scenes of self-harming, and even pretended to be older than they actually were to gain access to certain sites on the internet.

Interestingly, and in spite of these shocking revelations, 82 per cent of parents involved in the same study identified their children as having “great computer skills” which would lend favourably to future job prospects.