Like it or not, we are a digital society. In the age of mobile phones, video games, and computers, it is important to explore whether this abundance of technology has helped or harmed children's mental and emotional development. Experts disagree on the answer. While some argue that modern technology has had negative effects on children in some areas of their development, they acknowledge that it has also helped in other areas.
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Effects on Brain Development
Kids and teens spend a large number of their waking hours in front of one type of screen or another, and experts disagree on the effects of technology on child development. Some argue technology advances intellectual development while others argue technology overstimulates children and can impair brain functioning. UCLA professor Patricia Greenfield has reviewed over 50 studies on the effect of technology of students. She argues that while these studies report an increase in multitasking ability and visual reasoning skills in young people, meaning that they are able to see and process information quickly, they also reveal a decrease in attention span, making it more difficult for youth to solve more complex problems that require time and concentration.
Immediate Access to Information
The Internet has made immediate access to information possible. A 2010 Pew Internet and American Lifestyle Study reported that over 80 per cent of American kids aged 12 to 17 use the Internet and over half of these kids log on daily. The Internet has made it possible for kids to discard their library card and conduct research from home. With access to worldwide information at their fingertips, it is easy for kids to become lazy with their research and take everything they read on the Internet as fact. This can be dangerous, as anyone can post misleading information on a blog or website. Parental controls are also important when children are conducting research on the Internet to ensure sources are safe.
Social relationships have changed as a result of the high-tech culture. Through instant text messaging, kids and teens are in constant communication with their friends, even when they are inside the home. According to a 2010 Pew Internet study on teens and mobile phones, cell phone texting has become the favoured mode of communication among teens. Seventy-five per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds owned a cell phone, an increase from 45 per cent in 2004. The frequency of texting has surpassed all other forms of communication, including talking on a landline phone, social networking sites, and face-to-face communication.
According to a 2002 study presented by Cheryl Bennett at the conference of the International Occupational Ergonomics and Safety Association, 60 per cent of students between the ages of 10 to 17 complained of neck and back discomfort while using laptops. Ken Harwood of the American Physical Therapy Association also argues that there has been an increase in the diagnosis of repetitive stress injuries in kids. These injuries have been reported in children as young as 8 years old.
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- CIO; David Elkind: Technology's Impact on Child Growth and Development; 2003
- CNET News: Digital Kids: Is Tech Injuring Children?; Stefanie Olsen; 2006
- Pew Internet; Teens and Mobile Phones; Amanda Lenhart et al.; April 2010
- Proceedings of the Annual International Ergonomics and Safety Conference; Changing Educational Ergonomics; Cheryl Bennett; 2002