Digital technology has transformed the world and changed the social landscape. As the influence of digital technology has increased by leaps and bounds, the debate around its impact on the children and youth has become significant.
According to The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a Digital World,
- Youth (ages 15–24) is the most connected age group. Worldwide, 71% are online compared with 48% of the total population.
- African youth are the least connected. Around 60% are not online, compared with just 4% in Europe
- There is a persistent digital gender gap. Globally, 12% more men than women used the internet in 2017. In India, less than one third of internet users are female.
Positive Impact of Digital Technology:
- Education: Digital technology has given an impetus to education and learning outcomes with high-quality educational content, remote instruction, and has bridged the knowledge divide by creating both formal and informal learning pathways.
- For example: Brazil’s Media Centre for Education has been providing educational content since 2007 to children and youth living remotely.
- Awareness:Exposure to digital technology has helped develop awareness about society and the world among the children and youth by facilitating exploration and integration of information.
- Social Circle: Digital technology has provided children and youth a wider avenue of communication and means of psychological support amidst nuclearization of families and widening interpersonal gaps.
- Boost to creativity:Digital technology has increased the amount of sharing of creative works and help boost artistic abilities by providing much needed feedback to boost confidence.
- Digital activism and Social change: Digital technology has provided an opportunity to children and youth to amplify their voices and seek solutions to problems affecting their communities.
- For Example: Map Kiberia has helped young people in a Nairobi slum identify hazards in their communities and advocate for solutions to specific concerns
- Opportunities for economic participation:Byproviding digital skills that enhance employability; making access to existing job opportunities, digital technology has expanded economic opportunity for adolescents and young adults entering the workforce.
- Social Inclusion: Digital technology has play a significant role for the disadvantaged children such as children on the move, children living with disabilities and children who experience exclusion and marginalization because of their ethnicity or sexual identity
Negative Impact of Digital Technology:
- Physical Health:
- The use of digital technology has been associated with physical inactivity and obesity, sleep distortions thus increasing the risk of health problems in future.
- There have also been growing evidences of negative impact of digital technology use cognitive and language development of young children
- Mental Health: According to studies, overuse of digital technology has affected the psychological health for children and teens making them vulnerable to anxiety, depression, aggressive behaviour and other mental health issues.
- Of late, the WHO has recognised gaming disorder as a health disorder.
- Identity crisis (Digiphrenia): Digital technology has made it difficult for adolescents to form identity and are jeopardized in balancing between real selves and digital versions of themselves. Impact on
- Academics: Evidences suggest that excessive overuse of media and technology distracts and negatively impact learning outcomes.
- Societal relations:
- Spending too much time on social media, games, other digital tools cost interpersonal communication with family members and society, thus undermining the social fabric.
- According to sociologists, children/ teen’s social skills are negatively affected or otherwise altered because their friendships and communications with peers are digitally mediated.
- Content Risks: Children and adolescents are vulnerable to unwelcome and inappropriate content such as sexual, pornographic and violent images; poor advertising; racist, discriminatory or hate-speech material; and websites/games advocating unhealthy or dangerous behaviours, such as self-harm or suicide. For example: Blue whale Game, Momo Challenge
- Privacy:A major concern is theprivacy of children/ young adults who may not be equipped with levels of digital literacy necessary to assess as well as adopt measures of protection.
- Cyber-Bullying: Cyber bullying affects one’s self esteem and victims are more prone to use alcohol and drugs, not attend school, and experience in-person bullying and often lead to suicidal thoughts or even suicides.
- Online child sexual abuse and exploitation: Advancement in technology has made children more accessible to sexual offenders through unprotected social media profiles and online game forums.
- Policy: Policies related to cyber security, artificial intelligence, machine learning, net neutrality and digital access should adequately deal with children’s rights, privacy and welfare to help children and adolescents harness digital opportunities and protect from harm
- Safeguards for inappropriate content and sexual abuse:It is important to take adequate safeguards to protect children from inappropriate content like pornography and prevent networks and services from disseminating child-abuse material. India’s Supreme Court directive (2015) and consequent ban on porn in India is a step in right direction.
- Digital Literacy: Imparting digital literacy to children, teens and the parents is the key to keep children and teens informed, engaged and safe online.
- Role of private Sector: The private sector (internet service providers, producers and providers of content and other digital goods) shouldadvance ethical standards and practices that protect and benefit children and teens online.
- Role of family: Family has a large role to play in enhancing interpersonal communication through better communication, providing emotional support and being good digital role models for children.
- Role of Educational Institutions: Educational institutions need to encourage social cohabitation, provide e-safety curriculum, value education and monitor student’s behaviour and mental health issues.
- Role of Society: Society and communities should help children and adolescents acquire good social skills by means of community programs, initiatives and activities.