Modern technology is a very ubiquitous part of life in the twenty-first century. Many people of all ages are using computers and other gadgets for various purposes. Children and teenagers are one of the most familiar users of computers and more importantly, the Internet. This brings about many effects to them, both positive and negative.
Effects on Children
Most of the advantageous effects of ICT (information and communication technology) on children are the educational benefits of computer use.
Most educators stress the importance of ICT education for children from an early age. In an ever-changing world of technology, computers have played a major role in shaping standard education. Most schools now have computer labs to teach ICT classes. Students are taught the basics of using computers, such as opening, closing, saving files and using the keyboard. Basic lessons on using word processing, spreadsheet and presentation softwares are also taught. This is very useful knowledge for children since the world is becoming more high-tech, and many jobs require or depend use of ICT.
Nowadays, educational research goes to such as extent that homework and projects can be submitted directly to their teachers using special online networks. Young students from primary school are taught how to research and select information carefully from the Internet, and how to stay safe in the face of the Internet. Children and teenagers can learn more knowledge about anything by using Internet. They can find countless websites with resources to learn about subjects such as English, foreign languages, mathematics, sciences, geography and history. There are many educational websites offering online revisions and activities specifically designed for primary and secondary students.
However there are quite a few disadvantages to usage of ICT among children.
Many argue that parents should limit the time children use computers. A growing problem among children these days is the problem of computer addiction. Due to the influx of online gaming sites and programs, many children spend a lot of time playing these games whether it is a multiplayer, role-playing, action or pet-caring games. With online and PC games gaining popularity, more and more children are spending hours doing nothing but sitting in front of the computer playing computer games. Excessive use can lead to less socialising with friends, less movement or exercising, less time spent with family and losing touch with the real outside world.
One significant aspect is the health factor concerning computer use among children. Research states that if a child uses a computer for a much prolonged period of time, it can lead to short-sightedness. Eyes can become strained after staring at a computer screen for a long time, especially if using in dim conditions, in glare or with a bright screen. Due to this problem, more and more kids are getting glasses because of using computers, usually because of playing online or downloaded games.
Another health danger of excessive use of the computer is obesity. Computers do not directly affect obesity in children, but the side effects of using the media are problematic. A child who uses the computer is sedentary, meaning that he will not move much at all compared to exercising. Instead of playing games on the computer, these children should be told to do some physical activities outside with their friends instead of sitting and using computers all day. Also one source suggested that online advertisements promoting unhealthy foods and computer games can be a factor in fuelling obesity in children.
Online safety is another pressing issue which can endanger children online. Children are less aware of their surroundings compared to adults, both in real life and in the Internet. They are oblivious to the fact that one wrong click can lead to accidental downloading of viruses or other malware which can corrupt file information or steal personal accounts for criminal intentions. Many online advertisements of dubious authenticity can do this and can often target young users. Parents or other adults are advised to observe their children when using the computer and Internet to avoid them going to websites that contain malware, potentially harmful content or obscene language.
Effects on Teenagers
Teenagers are usually better users of ICT than the parents because of being grown up in this age of technology. They primarily use it for social and entertainment as well as educational purposes. They share some positive and negative effects of computers as children but in some aspects they differ greatly.
Benefits include using the Internet for social purposes. Teenagers are the largest demographic user of social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Since they are going through an adolescent stage of life, most teenagers want to feel connected to their friends at all time. They can communicate easily discussing mutual friendship, shared hobbies, current events and even school-related topics. Although it is a great advantage to be involved in social networking, it can be a huge disadvantage if it becomes addictive, or used in doing things that hurt others such as gossip or cyber-bullying.
Again, the educational benefits of ICT are numerous to teenagers as well as children. It is possible that teenagers can gain more understanding and knowledge from using computers or smart phones because many of them own it. They understand more sophisticated vocabulary and can learn many new skills from ‘how-to’ websites. One can learn things such as cooking, skateboarding, arts and crafts and entrepreneurship by just using the Internet. Students learn about ICT and researching using computers at a deeper level, and are very important for their future careers.
Teenagers are often the type of people who love fun and entertainment. Many watch movies, play games, listen to contemporary songs and even read e-books using their portable gadgets. It is very convenient to do these by downloading the content first from the Internet, usually for free. To them, it is an advantage because they can get their favourite enjoyment for free but it is actually illegal due to copyright laws. Although this is the case, most teenagers are not arrested for this unless they sell illegal content for commercial purposes to other people.
A major disadvantage for using ICT for teenagers is that it is often misused in various ways. For example, a large number of adolescents view and download pornographic content. This is not only against many social and religious norms, but is also illegal in many countries, more so if underage. In addition, some teenagers learn how to become hackers, and know how to enter someone’s account or make viruses or malware to spread to other computers. This would threaten the security of whole companies and governments as well as personal users of computers.
Other than that, the advantages and disadvantages in the children section apply to teenagers as well, for example addiction to games and Internet.
While the problems of the Internet are numerous for both children and teenagers, there are many viable solutions. The key to safer Internet for children would be increased awareness and education. Indeed, many schools and organisations have begun programmes that teach young people about basic internet safety measures, such as having secure login passwords and getting parental assistance when in doubt.
We all live in a rapidly changing landscape shaped by the advances of ICT. It is therefore absolutely crucial that all of us adapt to these changes in the best ways possible, by knowing what and how it is best utilised.