Children Growing up Online

Children Growing Up Online

 

An issue that is put forward by parents in consultation meetings during my work as an educational psychologist in Hong Kong is how much time their child should be spending looking at screens. The current generation of children spend more time looking at iPhones, iPads and computer screens than any past generation. Parents are asking professionals what effects this may have on their children particularly if they have special needs such as autism spectrum disorders, ASP burgers syndrome, ADHD, dyslexia or mood disorders such as anxiety.

One of the most important things to understand about children and adolescents in the 21st century is their life in the media.  They don’t just consume the media; they live there, growing up online.  The global digital media have created the flat earth.  Millions of children are using it, and it is levelling the educational playing field, bringing much of the world to one’s hand.  A major context of contemporary child development is the amazing world of the screen.  It mediates social-emotional life and increasingly, educational life.  Children’s world is media saturated, and school psychologists need to know this world well.

 

A good starting place for some, or refresher course for others, is this book.  It is a short, readable compendium on media and kids with 16 chapters and 30 authors, presenting a sweeping picture of just how deep the media have burrowed into the minds and behaviour of children, and their contributions to their well-being and harm.  It includes coverage of media use in the home (a national survey); learning and media; drug use and media; sexuality and media; video games; online risk and harm; public health interventions; Sesame Street; parasocial relationships (basically, in the media context, the one-sided relationship between a child or audience and a media figure or character); parenting; media and trauma; early learning and academic achievement; effects on weight and obesity, and the harmful effects of food advertising; and much more.

 

The literature reviewed in this volume is strong in suggesting that the use of research-informed programming has proven to help prepare children for school.  It also calls to action those who produce programming for youth, including phone applications, to incorporate what has been proven to enhance children’s achievement.  One promising means of enhancing student achievement was shown in research on children’s parasocial relationships with media characters, where parasocial relationships showed and influence of the media characters on children’s learning of seriation tasks.

 

This is the best currently available book on media and school-age kind, emphasizing positive health and well-being, and will get the reader to the point where they can incorporate state-of-the-art research and ideas into their own work with new-century children.  It is highly recommended.