In today’s technological age, everyone is worried that their children are becoming digital zombies. We have a precious granddaughter who’s a year and a half, but we’ve noticed that when we turn on the TV, she becomes locked in, as if she’s hypnotized. I read a study recently that reveals 8th graders typically check social media 100 times a day. But there’s never been any actual research to support our worries. But now, that research exists.
The Wall Street Journal reports “In a paper coming out in November, the journal “Perspectives in Psychological Science,” Madeleine George and Candice Odgers at Duke University review the scientific evidence we have so far about the effects of social media on adolescents. They found that teenagers are indeed pervasively immersed in the digital world. In one survey, teenagers sent an average of 60 texts a day, and 78% of them owned an Internet-connected mobile phone. But the researchers also found little evidence to support parents’ fears. Their conclusion is that teenagers’ experience in the mobile world largely parallels rather than supplants their experience in the physical world. Teenagers mostly use mobile devices to communicate with friends they already know offline. They can have bad online experiences, but they are the same sort of bad experiences they have offline.”
The bottom line is that – at least so far – the digital world hasn’t impacted our children in a negative way. Just in case you can’t quite believe it, the Journal added “Two large-scale surveys done in 2007 and 2013 in the Netherlands and Bermuda, involving thousands of adolescents, found that teenagers who engaged in more online communication also reported more and better friendships, and smaller studies bear this out as well. There is no sign at all that friendships have changed or suffered as mobile use has risen.”
In my opinion, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry – at least a bit. But at least it’s actual data that goes against our fears.
The writer of the Journal piece, Alison Gopnik, adds another interesting perspective:
“The other day, a newspaper writer joined the chorus of angry voices about the bad effects of new technology. “There can be no rational doubt that [it] has caused vast injury.” It is “superficial, sudden, unsifted, too fast for the truth.” The day was in 1858, and the quote was about the telegraph. Similarly, the telephone, radio and television have each in turn been seen as a source of doom.”
My advice? Relax. We all adapt. Anything can be overdone.
I advise parents to keep computers out in the open so they can watch what their kids are doing.
Plus, hold off as long as possible before they get their own mobile device, and ALWAYS, always talk to them about how it works, and what they need to be thinking about.
But for now at least, there’s no great cause for alarm. What’s been your experience?