Children and technology

Ryan and Deci outline three basic psychological needs associated with intrinsic motivation that can be applied to children’s use of technology:

competence: children succeeding in what they do and feeling that they can master a challenge effectively
relatedness: children connecting with others and feeling close to other people using online networking
autonomy: children being in control of their lives and making rational choices about how they use technology and for what purpose.

Most children in the UK are currently spending more time with technology than they do in school or with their families (Lauricella, Wartella and Rideout, 2015).

There is a distinction between ‘digital natives’, who are those generally born after the 1980s and are technologically adept and comfortable in a world of technology, and ‘digital immigrants’, who are generally born before the 1980s and are fearful or less confident in using technology.

The digital natives debate is not simply about this generational divide but also about the need for education to change in order to meet our children’s expectations.

Here is a taster of some of the claims that have been put forward:

There is growing appreciation that the old approach [of didactic teaching] is ill-suited to the intellectual, social, motivational, and emotional needs of the new generation. (Tapscott, 1998, p. 131)

Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach. (Prensky, 2001, p. 1)

A question frequently discussed is: if children now do learn in different ways to children in the past, what are the implications for education? Are children now finding traditional schooling increasingly difficult to engage with? So far there is little evidence of serious dissatisfaction or disengagement in young children’s education, and making any change to our current educational system on the basis of speculation would have drastic consequences for children’s learning.

Results of poll about effect of tech on children

other things that I’ve learned in my research by listening to children and their experiences of the Internet, is just how difficult it is even to make that distinction that I’ve been making between the risks and the opportunities. It helps me to understand why my research has shown that the online opportunities that children experience, on the Internet, are positively correlated with the online risks. In other words, the more they experience opportunities, the more they also encounter risks. It’s like becoming more independent, offline. To become more independent and to encounter the world more brings more risks and the converse is also true.

12:18Skip to 12 minutes and 18 seconds If we try to restrict what children do, on the Internet, in order to reduce the risks, we will be restricting their opportunities, too. That includes opportunities to develop resilience against future harm. What we also learned from listening to children, when they talk about the Internet, is the blurry line in between risks and opportunities. It’s very hard to draw that line. Children would like to make new friends, on the Internet, but we hear that as they will be meeting strangers. They like to have lots and lots of contacts, online, but we worry about who those people are. They might like to explore to discover health or sexual advice, on the Internet, but we worry about who is providing that advice.

In fact we’re not really any good at letting them walk to school any more by themselves, even though there’s fewer accidents on the road then there were when i was a child. No wonder, that when children want to explore or even to transgress, they often do it today online. Of course there’s nothing new about the way children want to meet, hangout, play, take risks, but as a society we need to think about where we want those places to be, and we need to think about who we want to be responsible for them.

Report – preventative measures – how youngsters avoid online risks


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