Are we forgetting the benefits of young people being online? - iGen Insight

Specialist Youth, Kids and Family Research Agency

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Are we forgetting the benefits of young people being online?

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Over the past few years, the number of 7-11 year olds who own a tablet device has rocketed, causing it to become the go-to device for kids when accessing the internet. Tablets are the most popular device used to play games, and the second most popular method of accessing the internet and watching video on demand among this age group (iGen Insight Kids Report). Its popularity even filters down to younger kids with a third of under-fives owning a tablet, an increase since 2015. [1]

We are often bombarded with a wealth of information stressing the downsides of kids being online, which ranges from the physical dangers being online poses to the mental stresses social media puts on young people to act and behave in a certain way.

Although these factors are important, the constant reminders mean that we often forget to remember the benefits for young people being online.

For the younger kids (aged 7-11), the time spent online, particularly on social media, is often monitored by parents. Recent focus groups we conducted highlighted the increasing effort made by schools to teach online safety to kids of this age. For the older kids (aged 11+), many of them are already aware of the risks of being online and often voluntarily switch off from devices once their eyes are tired.

Having an online presence (i.e. on social media) can be beneficial too – it can strengthen relationships between friends which becomes especially important during the transition from primary to secondary school. For other kids, an online presence provides social support and a sense of acceptance especially if they have niche interests. Being exposed to different opinions also helps kids to keep their horizons broad and to amalgamate different sources to form their own opinion [2].

As a whole in this day and age, being technologically able is becoming increasingly important for success, academic or otherwise. Since 2013, kids are being taught coding in schools, demonstrating the increasing need for computing skills [3] suggesting that becoming accustomed to all things online at such a young age can only be a good thing.

 

[1] http://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-world/news/1158974/rise-in-number-of-pre-school-children-with-their-own-tablets.
[2] http://www.parentherald.com/articles/6397/20150512/7-benefits-kids-social-networking.htm
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/04/coding-school-computing-children-programming

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