A woman is in labor in a high tech hospital and she is surrounded by numerous machines monitoring her health. A man is holding a tablet-pc recording the special moment of his wife giving birth. Suddenly, a hand appears from the mother’s birth canal. Then a head. The hand reaches for the man’s tablet-pc. The baby browses through the internet for baby delivery procedure. He reaches for a pair of scissors and then cuts off the umbilical cord. He gets dressed, reaches for the nurse’s smart phone and takes a picture with her and edits it. The baby then jumps off the bed and crawls to a fallen laptop. At the laptop, he logs onto a site and broadcasts himself. He then gets up, takes a picture of the unconscious surgeon through the phone and tags the location. The baby uses the Global Positioning System to walk out of the theater and the hospital.
This was an Indian advertisement that was recently shown on the cable network. The slogan said “Born for the Internet”. This is an over exaggerated phenomenon of a birthing process in the future. It shows how intelligent children will be in the future and how important technology will be for this development. Nowadays, children spend an excessive amounts of time using modern technology, particularly social networking websites and cellphone text messaging on a regular basis.
Online, children and teenagers can have hundreds of friends without having to leave their home or open their mouths. The potential of mobile technology as an educational tool is also steadily growing. But, on the other hand, it can also effect on the formation of basic social skills, family bonding and especially empathy for others. This paper will further discuss the positive and negative effects of technology on developing children and how it will impact on the growth of children in Sri Lanka.
Increasing use of technology
According to a recent survey, nearly half of babies under age 2 in the United States watch an average of two hours of TV every day, and 10 percent of children aged 2 have used a smart phone, tablet or other mobile device at least once in their toddler lives. 39 percent of children in the ages of 5 to 8 uses a computer every day. However, Television is still the main source of media for kids until the age of 8 (Allday, 2011). A survey on ten Sri Lankan teenagers in Colombo gave out the following results:
According to the above results, these children spend an average of 2 hours watching Television. At the same time, they seem to spend more time on computers than on television. They spend an average of 6 hours per day on computers. Teenagers especially in Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka, uses a computer on a regular basis mostly for educational purposes. And they use their cell phone almost 24 hours a day, in which they are perpetually connected to one or more social networking application. All ten of these participants have a smart phone, which enables them to connect to social networking sites. However, it is not so in the rural areas of Sri Lanka. Computer is a luxury most people in Sri Lanka cannot afford. According to a survey done in 2007 by the Census Department of Sri Lanka, only 8.2% of all households possessed a personal computer. Which indicates that 91.8% of the Sri Lankan households do not possess a computer.
At national level, Laptop Computers are available in only 0.9% of the households and these are primarily in the Colombo District (3.3%). On the other hand, 76.3% of the population owns Televisions in Sri Lanka (Satharasinghe, 2007). Therefore, we can assume by these results, that majority of children in Sri Lanka spends more hours on Television than on computer. The other most important factor is the usage of mobile phones. Although according to the graph above mobile phone ownership is 36.6%, it has been steadily growing since 2007. Unlike computers, affordability of mobile phones are increasing rapidly. By the end of 2012, 20.3 million out of 20.8 million total population of Sri Lanka, are mobile phone subscribers (Ratwatte, 2013). This could only mean that the need for communication is ever growing in the future. And the amount of children using mobile phones is similarly increasing.
The Digital Generation
Today, almost every child is registered on at least one of the social networking sites. Most likely on Facebook. On to the right shows a summary of a survey done in the US. It shows the growing percentages of children on Facebook according to age. In the past, a child of age 10 who has a Facebook profile was unheard of. Now, however, it is 19% out of the 1007 participants. The reason for this drastic change is the emergence of the “digital generation” (Beder, 2009). Children are growing up now into a world where social media, mobile technology and online communities are essential to the way that they learn, communicate and develop. They are born to this digital generation with a natural talent for new technologies. (Kelly, 2013). They experience technology in an emotional way that enables them to see it as part of who they are and not as a separate thing. It enables them to understand the new world in ways their parents never will.
Technology has shaped not only how they see themselves but also how they direct the world (Adler, 2013). Teenagers of the digital generation has the freedom of forming their own opinions, backed by trillions of information available on the web. Never before has the youth of the world stand up the way they do now. They feel no obligation to respect ideas that they don’t believe in. They feel free to express themselves openly, and taunt the traditional processors as to been faulty. They are their own innovators, creating their own cultures, compiling their own playlists, and decorating web pages with their own art. All these they have succeeded through the revolution of technology (Adler, 2013).
Technology as an Educational and developing Tool
When it comes to education, children use an increasing amount of ICTs and technology as learning tools. They are more informative than the previous generations, who did not have access to internet (Kelly, 2013). New software are being designed specifically for classrooms that can have remarkable effect on learning and creativity. A research done in 2003 has shown that children who spent more hours on the Internet has improved GPA’s and reading test scores. This is a result of extensive reading of text on the web. At the same time, it did not have any significant effect on children’s math scores (Linda A. Jackson, Alexander vo Eye, and Frank Biocca, 2003). Television is the richest source of learning for children if managed properly. The amount of things a child can learn through television is endless. From science, to music, to politics, the TV is rich of information on topics that a child will not be exposed in daily life.
It has probably been the most effective of all the mass media in making people aware of a wide range of human problems ranging from pollution to homelessness. It also has increased awareness and acceptance of various kinds of illness, both physical and mental. Studies have indicated that watching television can also increase the general vocabulary of children (Television and Children, n.d.). Some believe that technology, when used balance, can also play a role in children’s social and emotional development. By giving them access to people of different cultures and lifestyles, media has helped children care about what is happening outside their country.
It has encouraged them to get involved in online social causes and movements happening worldwide, from saving endangered species to raising money for the poor and victims of disasters (Sara, 2013). Video games have also proved to have an effect on child’s social, cognitive, and physical development. Through multi-player games, kids learn to collaborate, take turns and learn basic principles of teamwork and sharing. It could also increase their logical thinking process and help them grasp the concept of interrelationship between various elements. The movements needed for effectively navigating a mouse or joystick, while playing a game, helps develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination (Sara, 2013).
In the past, children used to play outside all day, riding bikes, playing cricket, and playing traditional games such as ‘Batta Painawa’, hide and seek and ‘gal hatha(seven stones)’. They were masters of imaginary games. They created their own form of play that didn’t require expensive toys or parental supervision. Children of the past were physically active and were more involved with nature. In the past, family time was often spent doing garden work and such. The dining room table was a central place where families came together to eat and talk about their day (Rowan, 2013). Technology has greatly impacted on the family structure of today’s families. With their busy work lives, parents now rely heavily on technology to make their lives faster and more efficient. Entertainment technology (TV, Internet, video games, iPads, cell phones) has advanced so rapidly, that families have scarcely noticed the significant impact and changes that has occurred in their family structure and lifestyles (Rowan, 2013).
All parents are guilty in one way or another of taking respites by occasionally subjecting children to Television, computer, or cell phones. The outcome of such actions is a media addictive child (Jayasinghe, 2014). Nowadays, children rely on technology for the majority of their play. Limiting their bodies of physical activities and creative play results in delays in attaining child developmental milestones, including basic skills required for achieving literacy (Rowan, 2013). Not only are more children using tablets and smartphones, they’re using them for longer periods of time.
American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children spend no more than 2 hours per day on all entertainment media (Media and Children, 2012). Referring to graph 1, the ten participants spend an average of 2 hour on Television alone each day. In US, children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity (Media and Children, 2012).
Developmental problems with Technology
Most programs on entertainment media involve extensive actions that requires rapid changes in focus. Frequent exposure to television and other media may harm children’s abilities to sustain focus on tasks that are not inherently attention-grabbing. Hard-wired for high speed, children struggle at school with self-regulation and attention necessary for learning. With overuse of technology, diagnoses of ADHD, autism, coordination disorder, developmental delays, unintelligible speech, learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders in children are increasing at an alarming rate (Rowan, 2013). To achieve healthy child development, the four critical factors of movement, touch, human connection, and exposure to nature are essential.
These factors ensure normal development of posture, bilateral coordination, optimal arousal states and self-regulation necessary for achieving basic learning foundation for school (Rowan, 2013). Due to excessive use of entertainment media, the visual and auditory sensory systems of children are in constant “overload.” This kind of imbalance creates huge problems in overall neurological development, as the brain’s anatomy, chemistry and pathways become permanently altered. Young children who are exposed to violence through TV and video games are in a high state of adrenalin and stress. Studies have found that children who overuse technology report persistent body sensations of shaking, increased breathing and heart rate. This kind of chronic stress results in a weakened immune system and a variety of serious diseases and disorders (Rowan, 2013).
Experts generally agree that too much screen time isn’t good for kids, but with so much of the technology still very new, there’s little understanding of what effect, whether good or bad, the various media can have on the minds of children. When an interview with ten Sri Lankan parents were carried out, they all agreed to the fact that they should limit the number of hours their children spend on media. In fact, all Sri Lankans must have heard “Putha, haven’t you started doing your homework yet? Wait until thaththi comes!” while watching TV, at least at one point in their childhood. It is a common scare tactic Sri Lankan mothers use to control excessive television watching in children. However, when the question of ‘Can you remove the TV?’ was presented, they all laughed. For them, as for almost every other 21st century parent, it is absurd to even think about such a course.
Television has long since been a rich source of information and an effective way of creating awareness in people of various diseases, disasters, and national threats. It has helped, especially in Sri Lanka, to keep the public safe from various terrorist threats during war. Therefore, no sane person would like to remove that informational source for whatever reason. Yet, the problem of children’s development still exist. With the advancement of technology as a field, there is no direct or indirect way of completely secluding children off technology, no matter how bad it is. What could be done, is control the amount of hours children spend on television and other technological devices.
And also pay attention to the type of content they’re accessing. With the entry to the new technological world, what the children of the digital generation needs is guidance and not avoidance. These children are full of potential, who can achieve great many things that were not heard before in the past through technology. Never have we before heard of ten-year old application developers or neither have we heard of 10-year olds with Facebook profiles. It is a changing world, no parent should blindly follow technology and ignore the impact it has on the child’s development, nor should they completely shut out any technology from the lives of their children. They should find a balance between the wants of their children and what is beneficial to them.
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Kelly, A. (2013, June 17). Technology can empower children in developing countries – if it’s done right. Retrieved from theguardian: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/technology-empower-children-developing-countries Linda A. Jackson, Alexander vo Eye, and Frank Biocca. (2003, December). Children and Internet Use: Social, Psychological and Academic Consequences for Low-income Children. Retrieved from American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2003/12/jackson.aspx Media and Children. (2012). Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/pages/media-and-children.aspx Ratwatte, C. (2013, April 16). Mobile Mania in Sri