The Challenges Of Growing Up Digital


Digital immigrants (people born before the advent of digital technology) may have invented the technologies that modern kids use, but they didn’t accurately anticipate how those kids would use them. For example, text messaging (SMS) was developed in the 1980s as an easy way for service engineers to communicate quickly. It would have been unimaginable that young people would chat instead of talking on the phone. This intersection of two views regarding technology usage has produced a new form of communication and a multibillion-dollar industry. The post-millennial “digital native” – a term coined by U.S. author Marc Prensky in 2001 – is emerging as the globe’s dominant demographic. With so many possibilities in a globalized society, it’s easy to lose focus, and it is not so simple to maintain a healthy balance in the world of young people.

According to a study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Boston and Harvard University, young people spend a preponderant amount time watching television, playing computer games, and listening to music compared to any other single activity. Although media participation has its own benefits, it has been shown that it’s not easy to use television, computer games, radio, and gadgetry in order to bring out the best in children. Electronic media can have both positive and negative effects on children’s emotional and social development and behavior, depending on the content. For example, a study completed by Missouri Western State University has shown that children do become more violent after watching violent programs, even the well-known cartoon “Tom and Jerry”. And playing aggressive video games can alter children’s views about the acceptability of violence and even hinder the development of their rational and moral reasoning. Mostly, so-called fantasy violence is portrayed as justified, heroic, and noble, and that also explains why modern kids are more likely to imitate or even adopt rewarded behaviors that don’t produce negative consequences. In the case of antisocial acts (lying, stealing, cheating no matter whether the purpose is positive or not) the lack of punishment represents an implied reward that may not be explicitly stated. These patterns of behavior can serve as role models and define adulthood.

Children used to live in a non-commercial world, before the marketplace reshaped the concept of childhood. Marketers claim that children are “empowered” by a new commercial environment that responds to their needs. The main argument is that children were marginalized by the dominance of adults until now. On the other hand, commercialization seems to cause negative consequences on children’s wellbeing, which generates debates about child sexualization and materialism. Marketers seem to exploit children’s emotional vulnerabilities and use phrases like “being cool” to sell clothes, toys, music, magazines, movies, etc. According to the World Health Organization, children are bombarded with hidden digital advertising and marketing which promotes fatty, sugary, and salty foods. Parents may underestimate, or be unaware of, such tailored and persuasive marketing techniques.

Due to little effective regulation or control over digital marketing, children are often exposed to targeted online marketing via digital platforms that collect personal data.

In the era of globalization there is a rising fear among parents, because the traditional certainties about choosing occupations (and the future of those occupations), has literally disappeared. It doesn’t matter whether a child wants to be an engineer, a doctor, a mathematician, etc. The world is developing so rapidly that every job which is now up-to-date and promising will be out-of-date tomorrow. Some jobs may be safe because they depend on “personal relations”, for example in industries like health, education, and care for the elderly. Instead of teaching their kids which jobs have apparent good prospects, it is recommended that parents convince their children ‘to globalize as quickly as possible”. Parents should be required to ensure that their children learn the right skills that prepare them for a globalized world: language skills, communication skills, negotiating, people skills, and the ability to understand and appreciate other cultures. Education is undergoing constant changes under the effects of globalization. The same goes for the roles of students and teachers, and those changes serve to further the development of an information-based society. The problem can be an environment of winners and losers, where children are frequently exposed to imposed postulates and trends. Their career pursuits are created by narcissistic goals of self-fulfillment and the competitive manipulation of (superficial) relationships, followed by the absence of interpersonal attachments. Therefore it’s easy to understand why so-called narcissistic disorders such as anti-social behavior are rising.

The children of the digital era are both blessed by the options and tools they have and yet are at risk of being affected by “the illness of rich kids”. They live in a world where within seconds they can instantly gain access to everything they are interested in. They have the ability to interact with friends across the globe and develop a sense of multiculturalism. It’s not simple for them to distinguish important information from content that overloads them. At the same time they can take the best of today’s world and find the most efficient way to build good lives, but on the other hand, they can get lost due to lack of proper guidance by parents, educational structures, and other social agents.

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