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How much technology do children really need?

There’s a viral photograph that is doing the rounds on Facebook just now . . .
It shows a group of teenagers, presumably pictured on a school trip, at an art gallery. Hanging on the walls, all around them, are beautiful paintings in ornate frames. No-one is looking at the art, however, because EVERYONE in the photograph has a craned neck, their eyes glued to the smartphones in their hands.
‘The saddest photograph I ever saw,’ reads the caption.
The sentiment is understandable.
Take a look around and this is a scene that is being replicated everywhere . . .
It’s not just teenagers, either.
Parents in the playground. Crossing the road. In cars.
In China (and, more recently, in Belgium) special lanes have been painted on pavements for pedestrians moving at a slower pace than most because they’re concentrating so hard on the screens in their hands. Could this be coming to Britain soon? It’d be no great surprise.
Never before can people have appeared so distracted and unaware of the things going on around them. That such behaviour seems to be becoming engrained earlier in life is a cause for concern.
Make no mistake about it. Here at CPUK, we have nothing against technology – far from it, in fact – and we believe that the tools available to the digital generation offer benefits, opportunities and advantages that cannot be comprehended.
But should behaviour, use and access be allowed without limits?
That is a question that demands to be answered.
It troubled us to read, a little earlier this week, that in the UK one in four children aged three or under owns their own tablet . . .
The parameters broadened ever so slightly, one-third of pre-school children have their own iPad (or equivalent). On average, such devices are used for one hour and 19 minutes EVERY weekday, often without parental supervision, assistance or guidance. Use on weekends is increased. From the children surveyed, six per cent had come across content that had made them feel uncomfortable.
Once more, we’re not against technology, but it’s our opinion that this isn’t sensible . . .
In thinking this way, it seems, we’re far from alone.
Following recent research – this from Internet Matters – that found that, in the UK, 65% of children aged between 8 and 11 owns a smartphone – support has been growing for a minimum age to be introduced. That minimum age, according to 85% of parents of primary school children surveyed, should be set at 10. Here at CPUK, we think that this could be pushed back a lot further, but it’s a start.
That this is rather pertinent to us is quite clear given that in Newcastle, dubbed Britain’s Smartphone Kids Capital, more than 90% of eight to 10-year-olds own such a device. That is a staggering statistic.
For now, at least, it remains a matter for parental discretion but it’s our hope that, with a little more discussion and greater thought, we can all start to take this a bit more seriously, for the sake of our children.
Trust us on this, this is a cause for concern.
Such photographs might be funny, but Facebook aside, this is no laughing matter.

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