Technology, the Internet and our children’s engagement with the online world have lead to many favourable advancements and developments for our children as well as some positive outcomes for their emotional and social wellbeing.
When we think of technology and the online world and the ramifications for our children, we instinctively think of the negative elements and the inherent risks associated with its use. Certainly, these fears are very real and as parents, we must be aware of these dangers if we are to successfully guide, educate and support our kids. But there are some wonderful and important advantages to this new technology that parents must learn to embrace if they are going to continue to connect with their children and steer them through this new world.
Recent times have seen a shift in the way kids use technology from purely a vehicle for information and entertainment to a major tool in communication, predominantly via social networks.
Here are some of the positive outcomes that can be attributed to our children’s engagement in these types of networks:
A sene of belonging and community
The online world creates places where people can find connections, ‘like-minded’ people and groups where they feel they are part of a community. The use of hashtags in Twitter and groups and pages on Facebook are examples of ways that kids can find people to connect with whilst their struggles, their endeavours or their interests can be supported by friendship, advice, expert knowledge, camaraderie and empathy.
Self Expression and identity
Kids often use social media to experiment with their political, cultural, ethnic or sexual identity and this can have a positive effect on those not able to fully express themselves in person or with their peers. They can use forums, networks and blogs to express their views and test out their values and identity. Many find that the ‘less than confronting’ nature of the Internet can allow for them to voice their opinions and organise their thoughts in a setting that isn’t confined by their parents, other adults or other social constraints.
Strengthening of interpersonal relationships
Certainly having positive personal relationships is an important factor in anyone’s wellbeing and again for many kids they can develop meaningful relationships online. There is also the ability to strengthen existing relationships with the use of social media when the constraints of geography, time limits of homework and afterschool activities and suitable places to catch up would otherwise make it difficult to stay connected. Studies have also found that those who suffered disabilities or chronic illness have developed enduring and dependable relationships to help them through difficult times.
Technology has opened up a whole new platform for kids to create. They can share content via blogs, animations, videos and photos, all of which help empower individuals to develop their own sense of creativity and identity. Kids are making new content, reworking old content and coming up with new and more creative ideas to get a message across, express an idea or connect with others. There is much that can be encouraged by allowing our children this freedom to create.
When we think about technology it is all too easy to claim that our children’s knowledge is more extensive than our own and that we will never catch up. Rather than believing it is beyond us however, we must instead seek to understand all of its elements, including the many positive aspects that go a long way to benefiting our children’s wellbeing, lifestyle and development.
The more we can find out about this world, the more chance we have of keeping the lines of communication open and ensure that we can continue to navigate our children through the risks and dangers whilst allowing them to flourish in all the many positive aspects of the online world.
What positive outcomes have you or your children experienced as a result of a connection with the online world?