Take a look around you and, in cars, shopping centres and restaurants, chances are you’ll find young children engrossed, not in the world around them, but in their new digital reality.
Australians have smartphones and tablet computers gripped in their sweaty embrace, adopting the new internet-enabled technology as the standard operating platform for their lives, at work, home and play.
But it is not only adults who are on the iWay to permanent connection. As parents readily testify, many children don’t just use the devices, they are consumed by them.
”These devices have an almost obsessive pull towards them,” says Larry Rosen, professor of psychology at California State University and author of iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming its Hold on Us.
”How can you expect the world to compete with something like an iPad3 with a high-definition screen, clear video and lots of interactivity? How can anything compete with that? There’s certainly no toy that can.
”Even old people like me can’t stop themselves from tapping their pocket to make sure their iPhone is there. Imagine a teenager, even a pre-teen, who’s grown up with these devices attached at the hip 24/7 and you end up with what I think is a problem.”
The technology has been absorbed so comprehensively that the jury on the potential impact on young people is not just out, it’s yet to be empanelled.
”The million-dollar question is whether there are risks in the transfer of real time to online time and the answer is that we just don’t know,” says Andrew Campbell, a child and adolescent psychologist.
Media convergence means that everything from War and Peace, television, movies, video, computer games and the internet – all with potentially different effects on a child’s brain – are available on the same device.
Parents used to worry only about TV use. Now school students’ screen use may begin at home with TV in the morning, continue with interactive whiteboards, laptops and computers in class, smartphones at lunch and on the bus, and continue at home with TV, computer, phone and tablet. Wayne Warburton, a psychologist at Macquarie University, says US studies show that beyond the school gates, teenagers are using screens or listening to music for more than 7½ hours a day. In Australia it is more than five hours and rising. Continue reading
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