Around the world, digital technologies have rapidly become an active part of everyday life. There has been a seismic shift in the way people interact with their environments, from work to leisure, from healthcare to food & grocery management. Whether it is through social media, payment wallets or apps for a plethora of needs, we have digital technologies to aid us in most aspects of our lives. This is true for children as well. Due to the restrictions imposed upon large sections of the world population during the Covid-19 pandemic, numerous schools had to move towards online education – further digitalizing children’s life world over.
Children today have been a part of the digital world for their whole lives, unlike people born before the 2000s. They are active digital consumers, even at a relatively young age, interacting with a number of new and interactive digital technologies. They are almost always ‘connected’ to the digital world – depending on digital services for everything from school to social interactions. This level of digital interaction comes with a number of positives and negatives. Children could use these technologies to further express themselves, to learn more (at a faster speed), to connect socially with others their own age, and to learn a more globalized approach to life. However, there are several drawbacks to letting children interact with these emerging digital technologies – they are often targeted by online predators, cyber bullies and harmful content, that they may not be able to find their way past.
Advantages of digitalization on children’s mental health
- Increased IQ and EQ levels
Children around the world are showing higher levels of IQ & EQ than their predecessors. Many experts around the world attribute this to the rise of digital technologies and the access that children have to it. The increase in the number of technological devices and applications used by children can serve to increase their stimuli to a range of complex problems.
- Educational & mental skill development
Digital technologies can have a positive impact on a child’s development right from adolescence, if they are exposed to the appropriate technologies. Educational and instructional tools can help children develop cognitive skills early on, by allowing them to interact with technologies that can have multiple benefits. Games designed to help children with memory, attention, language, math, science and more, can help children improve in areas where they may be lacking.
- Enhanced learning opportunities & advanced problem solving
Children today have access to content on the Internet that would otherwise be extremely hard to access. Instead of having to depend on schools, libraries or after school tutorials, children can download any extra modules, work sheets, video tutorials and more, from the comfort of their living rooms. They can interact with other children, teachers, parents or experts online, through various apps and websites that will provide them with the opportunity to learn whenever and wherever they way. Visual design, technical drawing, coding, Web 3.0 and statistical programs help children develop both creative and cognitive skills.
- Emergency management
One of the most positive effects of digitalization on children is that it helps parents keep track of their children, even in case of an emergency. Mobile phones, smart watches, tablets, and more come equipped with tracking software, so you can locate your child if they appear lost or confused. By using alarm features on these devices, parents can make sure their children are trained to take medication on time, or to stay in touch in case of a medical emergency.
- Critical thinking development
With the advent of interactive games, mental exercises and language tutorials, children can develop critical thinking skills much earlier than ever before. By exposing children to different technologies that can boost strategic thinking, parents can help their children think for themselves, while solving complex problems right from a young age.
- Engaged through entertainment
Parents can find a wide range of technologies that can provide their children with informational content that is most interesting to them, and thus they can learn while they have fun! Parents can use digital technologies to help their children with a variety of problems, ranging from common boredom to attention deficit disorders. Children can enjoy their leisure time, by working on activities that can help them build better mental health, instead of focusing on negative things.
- Staying socially connected
With the advent of social media, children can now stay in touch with the world around them easier than ever. They can keep in touch with their family and friends, at the click of a button, thus expanding their social connectivity and reach. If monitored properly, digital technologies can help children connect with others within their own age-group, who share their same interests, much easier than ever before.
Disadvantages of digitalization on children’s mental health
- Lower attention spans
The extreme use of digital technologies such as tablets, laptops and tablets can lead to difficulty in concentration and can cause distractions to children. The misuse of apps and technologies aimed at educating children can actually result in a lack of focus, short attention span and other learning disabilities in children, especially if experts have not certified the apps or technologies.
- Minimized ‘real world’ interactions
A number of digital technologies available to children tend to ‘gameify’ learning, by rewarding children with levels, stars, and more. Children who do not like socializing are more likely to distract themselves in these virtual worlds where they may feel more comfortable. However, this will just serve as a temporary problem to a problem that will only grow as they become older. Children must be encouraged to maintain a balance between their online and real world interactions, so that they learn to get along with people in various settings.
- Increased aggression levels
Children tend to have colorful imaginations that can easily be manipulated by online interactions. Games in general could increase aggression levels in children, since they could lead to frustration in children who are not equipped to handle failure yet. Violence and frightening images depicted in games or social media, could lead to unhealthy emotions building up in children.
- Health problems lead to mental health problems
Overexposing children to digital technologies can lead to a number of physical health problems that can have a negative impact on their mental health. Some of the most common problems include: neck pains, skeletal distortion/bad body posture, numbness in the arm, hand or fingers, vision problems, sleep issues and obesity. If children use technology to offset physical activities in real life, it can have an extremely adverse effect on their physical and mental health wellbeing.
- Cyber bullying, abuse and other security risks
While social media can help children stay entertained, it can also lead to cyber bullying, which is a common problem in the digital age. The anonymity of the Internet gives rise to a number of harmful comments and posts from all corners of the world. Children could be bullied over their appearance, number of social contacts, interests, mental health and more. It is important to monitor children’s social media in order to make sure predators aren’t targeting them.
- Risk of depression, social anxiety and fear of missing out
It is easy for children to compare themselves and their lives to those of other people online. This can cause a high level of social anxiety and even depression in children, who may turn to social media in order to feel better, thus continuing the cycle. Instead of them falling deeper into the social media hole, it is important to bring them out of it and base them in reality. In extreme cases, it is important to seek out the help of an expert who can help your child cope with their difficulties.