Computers have become such a part of our lives, it’s hard to remember the time when they didn’t exist and when people didn’t know what a computer was or what it did. Today, children as young as three have access to a computer at some point during the day, whether it’s their own or they are sharing time with an older sibling or a parent. Increasingly, the younger generation is growing up computer literate and while there are many advantages to a child learning early about technology and computers in general, there are of course the disadvantages of computer to children.
Just like there are strangers waiting to give candy to an unsuspecting child, there are strangers online waiting to do the same. Unlike in the real world, the stranger can say and be anything online and unless a meeting is arranged, no one will no the wiser. Sadly, there are cases in which young children and teens have been lured away by someone claiming to be from their age group and liking the same things they do.
The online world can sometimes be more forgiving than the real world; this is true for kids who may lack the self-esteem and confidence to interact with their real world peers or who may be bullied. Online, they may find a group of people who understand them better. Again, this can hold advantages, but the disadvantage is that the virtual world is more appealing than the real world to the point where the real world becomes a hindrance.
And don’t think that bullying can’t happen online; a new trend has seen bullying take a sinister side in the online world. There have been a rise in teen suicides due to cyberbullying - the process in which a victim is targeted through social networking sites like Facebook and My Space or other technological means, like texting.
Outside? What outside?
Even adults lament at having to be inside all day, working on that report for the boss when the sun is shining outside and you’re stuck behind a desk.
There used to be a time when kids came home from school, did their homework, had dinner, and went outside to play. Those times are rapidly depleting as more and more kids find themselves in front of a PC/MAC, laptop, or smartphone. It’s no secret that childhood obesity is steadily climbing faster than experts ever imagined and while computers aren’t the number one cause of this, they do contribute as kids are less likely to be active away from their online life.
This is also true when it comes to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and My Space where virtual friends are free and you will most likely have more friends online than you will off line. Add to that the emergence and rise of MMO gaming and there are many distractions that can have a child be less interested in the outside world.
For more information on the disadvantages of computer to children, continue reading on page two.
Disadvantages of Computer: To Children and Teens (Continued)
MA Does not Mean “Most Appealing”
You can’t discuss the disadvantages of computer to children without discussing those things that are at the forefront; those being violence and sex.
Younger generations are being exposed to more violence and sexual images more so than the previous generation. This is in part thanks to television and the media, as well as suggestive song lyrics that your child will sing at the top of her lungs. There is also the Internet. You can literally find just about anything you want doing a simple search, but sometimes you may stumble on things that you didn’t want to find.
Some websites are not age appropriate. And while the majority do take the needed step in verifying the age of a participant, it really is rather easy to get pass some of the more ‘adult’ sites online. And these sites are really difficult to find; a simple search for male pictures can stumble upon a site that has nude male pictures, even if that’s not what your child was searching for.
Add to this in which video games are not the mom and pop variety anymore and there’s a much bigger problem. Sadly, some parents will buy a video game their child has been raving about for months without doing a background investigation and then become shocked when they see the very talked about sex scene on their way to get a cup of coffee. Sometimes parents can’t control what their child sees or plays when not at the house; some parents have different standards for their children than other parents.
That can lead into issues if one child is allowed to play a game that is not intended for their age group.
What’s a Parent to Do?
This is a very short list of disadvantages that comes from a child with a computer. With cyberbullying, predators, sex, and violence, what’s a parent to do? Chuck out the PC and lock them in their room until they become adults? That may not work as well as you would like.
Just remember that, with anything, there are advantages and disadvantages to everything and computers are no different. There simple and easy steps to make sure that your child doesn’t get caught in the pitfalls of online hell.
Firstly, the computer is not a babysitter. Repeat, the computer is not a babysitter. Being a parent is tough, no one will argue that, but the kids that turn out into outstanding individuals who go on to achieve world peace and the cure for cancer are the kids that had rules and boundaries and all that growing up. Times are tough, with both parents usually working, but make sure you take time out to know your child. Knowing your child will help set boundaries on what they can and can not do while online.
Knowing your child is an important second step. If you know your child, you can discover where and why the online life is so important. Are they online because they’re bored when they get home? Find out what activities your child enjoys and enroll them in a class or after school program that centers on that activity. Are they more outgoing online than in real life? Try to get them to discover is any classmate enjoys the same online activity. Online friends can become friends offline too and vice versa.
(This article continues on to page three)
More on the Disadvantages of Computer: To Children and Teens
Talking to your child goes hand in hand with the first two points. Just asking about their day and scheduling activities that don’t involve the computer go a long way in keeping them in the real world. If they are just starting to learn about computers, set an exact time in which they can be on the computer and online; as they get older, this time can be lengthen or shortened. The transition to a time may be difficult for those that are used to being on for several hours, but get in the habit of limiting the time in the virtual world.
Use computer time as incentives when they finish homework or are achieving good grades. Take time away when they get in trouble. And be firm about it. If in a two parent home, discuss the punishment with your spouse to ensure that there’s no leeway. And make the punishment universal - if siblings are fighting over the computer, neither one gets to use the computer. Make being on the computer something special, like a reward or a prize instead of a right.
Video games and websites
The trickiest thing is watching out for websites and video games. Just like with television, if you need to block a site or game, then do it.
As a parent, you probably know which games and sites are best for your child. To keep with that, investigate the video game your child has been insistent to play. Google is your friend and video game rating charts can be found with a simple search. Common sense dictates that a game rated M or MA - for a mature audience - is probably not appropriate for your seven year old.
If you or your spouse are into games, wait until the kids are in bed before you break out Mass Effect 2 or before you join the guild for the epic WoW raid. If there is more than one computer in the house, keep Mom or Dad’s computer in a separate room, like an office; an area in which kids are not allowed unless permission is granted. This ensues that you can play all the violent and sexual games you want without Junior seeing stuff he shouldn’t. The same goes for websites that are not suitable those under the legal age to vote.