Instead of a game of dodgeball, kids are playing Fortnite, and instead of assembling building-block castles, they’ve swapped to Minecraft and so forth. Digitalization is on its sharpest incline yet, and it has thrown the “old ways” out the window.
But is it only children’s playtime that has been altered by technology?
In August 2019, eager to discover the impact that technology is having on our youngest generation – dubbed “Generation Alpha” – Domain.ME commissioned a study on children’s technology use. The results, although to a certain degree expected, did not fail to surprise.
How’s technology influencing our children?
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Children of Gen Alpha are growing up with an array of possibilities that preceding generations did not have a chance to enjoy. From voice assistants, which they are already mastering around the time they learn to speak, to various applications that prompt cognitive development, this generation is under the magnifying glass. And the biggest question on everyone’s mind is: How is technology influencing our children?
Considered a favorite “toy,” the smartphone has become one of Gen Alpha’s favorite pastimes. Although this “toy” brings countless possibilities, especially if parents assist their kids in using the right resources, the research has shown that one of the top tech concerns for this generation is screen addiction.
Avoiding technology’s negative influences
As kids, Millennials – who are predominately parents of Gen Alpha children – turned to encyclopedias or their parents to get the information they sought, but their children are more likely to use the internet as their biggest source of information.
These kids use technology not only for play, but also to learn and interact with information. Technology has enabled a more “hands-on approach” and has helped them do their own research, instead of half-absorbing the didactic lectures at schools or passively adopting information as it’s given to them. The research has shown that 87 percent of Gen Alpha parents think that access to the internet has helped their child perform better in school.
So, how do we aid their learning process, while at the same time ensuring they are using the internet effectively and appropriately?
Parents’ top priority when safeguarding their kids online is making sure that there is adult supervision, limited screen time, and content filters. Here’s why:
Without parental protection, children have access to the entire internet at the click of their fingers. The research shows that 66 percent of Gen Alpha kids would be exposed to adult content without parental protection. And it isn’t just the adult content we ought to worry about. As it turns out, if there is not adequate adult supervision of some kind, 49 percent of kids would be the victims of cyberbullying, 69 percent would be at risk of screen addiction, while 35 percent of them would be defenseless against identity theft.
As a parent, you should have a talk about technology and the internet sooner than you might think. Go through all the technology available to your child. While tech is a popular tool for babysitting, and an easy solution for a busy lifestyle, don’t simply hand them a random video on YouTube to watch. There’s an array of great channels and games that promote kids’ cognitive development that are both entertaining and educational. There is also YouTube Kids. Use these, while limiting the child’s screen time to a reasonable and productive amount, to make sure your kids grow into adjusted and capable digital citizens.
Are our children really addicted to technology?
One quick look at an average group of adults, and it’s easy to spot a few tech devices (at least). We are using technology devices to check the weather, buy a bus ticket, do our jobs, or navigate our smart homes. Whether we see it or not, we are connected to our technology for a large part of our days–so why do we perceive children’s time with technology as an addiction?
It should be noted, given that we live in a world of hyper-digitalization, removing and denying kids access to technology could only segregate them from their peers. Gen Alpha kids are not addicted to technology per se – instead, technology has become a part of their everyday lives (just as it has ours) and as such, their reality. They learn to maneuver the tech world at an early age and use technology to grasp information quickly. Therefore, kids should be guided and mentored, while making sure the time they spend ‘glued’ to the screen is productive and reasonable.