The emergence of the digital world from its beginnings in the 90’s to now has changed life as we know it. We now have the ability to connect to any services or piece of information we would ever want. Some, like myself, have embraced the digital evolution with unconditional appreciation but some however still mourn for the loss of the reality they once knew.
However, there is no going back. We seem to be on an unstoppable train heading for the technological singularity and so whatever issues arise because of it we'll all just have to face them, head on, together.
One of the problems we are currently facing is dealing with the effects from the amount of time we and our children are spending in the digital world. Kids are no longer spending their days playing outside getting up to kiddish mischief but instead immersing themselves in an endless digital reality ..... and it has consequences,
Research and statistics
Experts have shown that kids around and above 8 years old are spending around 45 hours a week online. 23% of these children have reported feeling unable to unplug from their digital devices experiencing varying levels of withdrawal symptoms. What does this tell us about the mental health of our children?
Although Research is pretty new in this area there does seem to be a clear set of consequences for children who spend to much time online.
Effects of too much time on digital devices
lack of interest in real life activities such as reading, sports, school work or socialisation
Obesity from lack of activity
Increased risk of developing ADHD
Underdeveloped social skills
Lack of impulse control
From this list it would seem spending too much time online could have serious consequences. Why is it then that we allow them to have so much free access? What are the positives of all this technological advancement?
Staying in touch with near and far friends
Getting ahead for jobs
Able to Turn to the internet for information
Having access to information about literally anything 24/7
Access to services you might not have been able to get before
Being connected to the whole world
The need to find a happy middle
I think the sensible solution is finding a balance between time online and down time. We need to keep encouraging learning and exploration but have firm rules on what children have access to and for how long.
The responsibility for enforcing this must also solely lay with the parents. Children are not the best at self regulation so parents must make sure a healthy balance is found.
Tips on finding that balance
Here’s a few tricks on how to set rules and monitor children's internet use.
Location of the computer
If the digital device or computer is located in the family room you’ll be able to control what the children have access to far easier than it would be if they had the device in the bedroom.
Make sure there is a definite balance between online access and down time. Try to get them involved in other activities like sports.
You could also use internet access as a reward for good behaviour. I don't think it would be that bad if you bribed kids with an extra half hour internet access before bed for tidying their room. Some people may call it blackmail, I like to think of it as positive persuasion.
Kid proof browsers with security software
There’s plenty of really good software packages out there that will control access to age inappropriate content.
There are apps now you can download that limit social media access. You can set a maximum amount of time your allowing your child to go online and after that the app will block all further roaming.
Check internet usage
If you are worried about what your children are doing online go into your web browser settings and check the history to see what they are looking at.
For me personally the internet has been a game changer. Being a young shy little gay boy from a small seaside town the internet was an escape for me. I was able to connect to a world that I couldn't find at home. For most part it's been responsible for my education, personal development, spiritual growth, career and dating habits. I found a whole other world online, a world of information that was hidden from me in a religious school educational system.
As for how much exposure we should allow children to have online. The reality is internet 3.0 is just around the corner. Technology is upgrading so fast that if we want our children to be successful the more they know of the digital world the better chances they will have in succeeding in life. It's just the way it is. There is no going back to a simpler time so gift your children with the tools to be able to operate successfully in the digital work place.
However, If you are worried about the effects of to much time online I've included a few websites below with a lot of interesting and useful information.
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