In the modern world we are always worried about the impact technology and media will have on our children. The world has after all changed drastically in recent times, I remember the internet dial-up tone, Snake on Nokia, the magic of VCR but the kids of today are so far past that. They can stream HD movies to their mobile phone, hide their secrets in the cloud and video chat with multiple friends scattered around the planet at the same time. A new report released today has taken a look at how childhood has changed by comparing the experiences of grandparents to their grandchildren.
It found that children are spending just eight hours a week playing outside - compared to the two days their grandparents enjoyed in the great outdoors. So should we be worried? As a kid I loved hearing the stories of what childhood was from my Nan. The 1930's seemed like such a simpler time, you could leave your doors open and kids could wonder off in to the woods and explore and still be home for supper. So, is it time to bin the gadgets and lock our children in the back garden until their hands turn green?
Personally I don't think so, as with everything else, technology is not good or bad by itself - It's how we use it. If parents are letting their kids spend all of their free time looking at screens then there will be a problem, it's all about moderation.
Even with the slow internet speed I remember spending hours on Windows 98 using MSN messenger and I think I turned out relatively well, I could even pass for normal on a good day. The thing with today's kids is that they are wireless they don't need to sit at a desk to access the World Wide Web like I did, they have 4G on the go. I remember staying in on a Saturday night to watch my favourite shows with my Nan, it was one of the highlights of the week and I wouldn't trade it for the world. But today's kids aren't a slave to the TV guide like I was, they can watch what they want, when they want, the concept of staying in to watch something on the telly is completely lost on them.
The truth is I'm excited for the future of kids today, they are getting a rare and never before opportunity to see the entirety of the world from a young age. In generations past kids would rarely experience things outside of where they lived, they had to take the opinions and views of those around them as fact. But now they can log on to Google and see what's happening in the world, explore any topics they are interested in and yes watch hours of YouTube footage - but it is all learning. The world is a much bigger place to the youngsters of today than it was for us and I predict them to all grow up with very globalised views far superior to the way our generation sees the world.
Let's not kid ourselves, yes, it is an important part of development for kids to be outside but the reason our grandparents spent so long outside in their youth is because there wasn't all that much else to do. We as humans do have a habit of romanticising the past. Whilst I'm sure the 1940's were lovely I'd much rather be in the modern world. Technology and media does have the power to give us all a level playing field especially where children are concerned. For example, kids today will know more about different types of jobs they could do when they get older, back in the day the only jobs kids knew about were the ones that people around them had.
It also seems that kids today have the balance right, the image of today's children glued to computer screens is wide of the mark, nine out of ten children said they enjoy building or making things from scratch using raw materials. And over half of today's kids love the simple yet creative pastime of making paper planes, which is just as popular today as it was 60 years ago.
It makes sense, I remember being a kid and one universal traits of childhood is getting bored of things easily. Kids need varied activities to keep them engaged. It's nice to see that paper planes are still popular with kids, I remember the hours I spend with my Grandad being taught how to make them and then racing them to see who's could stay in the sky the longest.
Last weekend my flatmate had his ten-year-old nephew over for a weekend visit. I watched the two of them playing on the Ipad. It was a two player game that asked general knowledge questions and the one who could answer first got the point. I was amazed and horrified. I was amazed at seeing how technology these days has improved the experience of game playing for kids. I was horrified because this ten-year-old knew more general knowledge than my flatmate and I combined. The truth is all of the technology nowadays has been designed with children's education in mind and the gap between fun and learning has been bridged in a very discreet way so that kids don't actually realise how much they are learning.
The report also hinted at rivalry between the generations, Three-quarters of children today said they have better imaginations than grown-ups - although half of adults think kids of their generation were more creative than children today. I think I probably side with the adults on this one but only because I think kids today get a concept of reality mapped out earlier. In the past I think kids really did think they would get magic powers if they wished hard enough. Nowadays kids seem to know where the fantasy stops and the real world starts.
And for those that want to test their imagination against their kids, Play-Doh who conducted the study are set to launch the Imaginarium at London's Science Museum. Ex-Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis, who will open the Imaginarium on Saturday 8th October, said: "UK kids are more creative than ever.
"They're venturing beyond the world of sticky-back plastic and finding diverse and amazing new ways to express themselves, whether that's through technology, through arts and crafts or through storytelling."
What do you think about kids and technology? Is it dangerous or just a healthy moving on of the times? Leave your comments below.
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