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Technology and childhood




In a previous blog I wrote about a book I was reading, Stolen Focus by Johann Hari, which talks about the link between technology and our ability to concentrate.  It is an illuminating book and devastating in many ways.


Technology, specifically phones and how to get young people to spend less time scrolling is a problem faced by many families, and many of us feel overwhelmed and torn between protecting our child’s privacy and protecting them from danger and outside influences.  As controversial as it may be to some parents, our teenager has no privacy.  If she wants a phone, we must have the ability to check it.


With this in my mind, I saw a review of The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of childhood is Causing an epidemic of Mental Illness by Jonathan Haidt.  The review was written by Simon Ings.


Haidt asserts that people born after 1995 have had their brains rewired, not by the iPhone itself (first released in 2007) “but its front-facing camera,” released with the iPhone4 in 2010.  Instagram launched the same year, so users “could curate online versions of themselves” constantly.


The point of The Anxious Generation is to show there is a link “between phone culture and the ever more fragile state of our youth.”  “These companies have rewired childhood,” says Haidt.


Two pieces of data from the book –


Between 2010 and 2015, depression in teenage girls and boys became two-and-a-half times more prevalent.


From 2012-2020, the rate of self-harm among young adolescent girls nearly tripled.


Phone culture is only half of Haidt’s argument; the other is the shift towards overprotecting children and restricting their autonomy in the world, but that is a subject for another blog!


As parents/carers we know the devastation that can be caused by bullying comments on social media, a thumbs down on YouTube or how our young people can get to a place where all that matters are likes and shares on social media.  Our daughter has been on the receiving end of nasty comments in chats with ‘friends’ and the effect on self-esteem can be long lasting.


Like many parents, I don’t have an answer to this.  I simply do what works best for my family and I try to keep up with the different platforms that young people use.  Many schools are also doing a great job.


I’ve found Ineqe Safeguarding Group to be a fantastic source of information.  They do safeguarding training for many organisations, but also empower parents with information.  You can sign up for their weekly newsletter - https://ineqe.com/


Technology is amazing and it can make a wonderful difference to all our lives.  With that comes huge responsibility.  All we can do is our best.

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