Growing Up... Digital.

by Lea Zettler

The trap of social media?

Smartphones, laptops, and tablets make up only a margin of the hundreds of other technological devices we share our lives with. Ever since the start of the 21st century, when our phones could do more complex calculations than the rockets which landed man on the moon, digital technologies changed human existence. Alongside this boom, the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to be even closer with media, practically overnight.

Not only the concept of working from home but also homeschooling is emerging. Young children, in pre- or primary school, are confined to spend an alarming hour in front of their screens to ensure their education. At the same time, good use of technology can lead to better control of handling tasks, enhancing their problem-solving skills, response time and creativity.

Children rely on adapting the behavior they pick up from elders around them.

Even if they are not introduced to digital media through homeschooling and similar approaches, it is only natural that children want to learn the same skills as their guardians. Digital media is used by a vast majority of people all around the clock, so it’s no wonder that the young ones want to be included.

Allowing children to familiarize themselves with technologies by teaching about the correct usage of websites, such as reliability and avoidance, will also ensure their sensibility for certain skills. Digital literacy and competence are not only key for their professional future, but also for their lives in general.

Alongside this development, the trap of social media arises. The online world empowers everyone to emerge into the public space, but this call for connectivity also comes with its harms. Teaching youngsters to manage their online identities responsibly is crucial to not only understand, but also overcome the harms the internet presents for children.

With changing times and technologies, family structures and parenting change as well. Parents should acknowledge that they can’t keep their children of the web indefinitely if they don’t want to hinder their social lives. A better approach is to help build a safe relationship with media catering to their needs. Most adults can’t get away from their phones for more than a couple of hours, so why should a child understand that this medium is off-limits to them?  A perspective for the future is offered by Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, who sums up his approach in the following quote: “mitigate the harms while maximizing the benefits”. We all can learn so much with these new technologies, so be a role model children can look up to when dealing with all those new impressions.


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