Our digital devices have slowly become extensions of ourselves, like a cyborg hand that serves as our second brain. For example, it is now hard to imagine leaving the house without your cellphone, as it is one of the tools that you’re most reliant on. Some have even gone so far as to say that without their smartphone they feel “naked."
Technology is exponentially changing and expanding its capabilities, which is having drastic effects on our culture. We see the biggest social changes, spurred from the growth of our digital age, within our children. The youth of our day are referred to as “digital natives,” as they were born into a society with a major reliance on Internet, cell technology and advanced computers.
There are many benefits and challenges that our children will encounter in our digital world that will affect their social life, education and health.
Social LifeYour child now has a split social life: partially in-person and partially through their devices. Kids are more connected to their friends than ever before. If your child always has his smartphone on him, he always has the capability of connection with his peers. Many kids employ social platforms, like Instagram, Vine, Twitter and Snapchat, as communication tools. They are also constantly texting and video chatting with friends, whenever given the opportunity.
The positive aspect of this is that this generation will be excellent and resourceful communicators. They are aware of the tools that will help them connect with others and they exercise the interpersonal skills frequently. Their interconnection helps them receive and release information quickly, without many barriers.
The downside of this lightning-speed connection is that damage can be done in an instant. If your child has a lapse of judgement and writes something inappropriate on a social platform or text, it can spread like wildfire. A misguided tweet can be captured in a second, even if deleted almost immediately.
EducationAccess to information has never been easier. The Internet is a powerful resource in the academic environment, as kids can quickly access information and gain knowledge. Kids can find information instantly, but is it the right information?
A worry is that kids may not be able to differentiate between reliable sources and unreliable sources. For example, a government website is going to have the most accurate information about particular laws, versus a citizen’s blog that talks about their remedial understanding of the justice system.
One positive aspect of this is that kids will always be able to find the most up-to-date knowledge about academic subjects. Their knowledge will no longer be misinformed or restricted by their school’s outdated textbooks.
However, your child may also be able to access information or media that is too mature for their age. Make sure your family computer and your child’s digital devices are equipped with parental protection apps and programs, so you can moderate the sites they visit and the content they engage with.
HealthYour child can learn more about his body and health with the uprising of physical monitoring technology. Wearable tech, like a FitBit or Apple Watch, will help your child keep track of his fitness goals and overall health. He can measure how many steps he takes every day, and this practice can create an awareness of his activity level. The Apple Watch will even remind the wearer that he has been sitting for too long, which will help prevent issues like obesity and an inactive lifestyle.
Wearable technology can also track sleep patterns and let you know how often you wake during the night. This is important, as sleeping disorders are detrimental to physical and mental health.
But beware that wearables may make your child overly conscious of their bodily functions. They could quickly become hypochondriacs about heart rate or sleep patterns, which can lead to other problems. Access to medical and health information online will only fuel paranoia and worries. Make sure your child isn’t too reliant on his wearables and won’t become overly obsessed about his health statistics.