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Coffee House

Technology is reshaping childhood — should we be worried?

21 March 2014

12:00 PM

21 March 2014

12:00 PM

Are children utterly obsessed with technology? Yes, is the obvious answer to that question, but debate about whether is it a good or bad thing rages around forums such as Mumsnet. Many believe the innocence of childhood has been ruined by unfettered access to the Internet, videos, games and goodness knows what else. Others instead think that every generation of children is different and parents have to move with the times instead of yearning for their own past.

I have to admit I’m a little biased. I built my first computer when I was six and spent most of my teenage years faffing around with websites and attempting to code. No doubt I missed out on the joyful pursuits of kicking a football but I loved every minute of it. Now, I use technology almost exclusively for work purposes and spend little time playing with with tech for its own sake. Maybe I overloaded when I was a child? Or maybe it’s growing up?

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It’s not just at home that computers (which includes tablets, watches, phones) have become one with children. Schools are now more akin to Apple Stores than quiet chambers of learning. In the Spectator’s independent schools supplement last year, I looked at how technology is changing the classroom and the three distinct phases of its evolution:

‘The third phase is the one schools have entered today. Computers and curriculum now have a symbiotic relationship. Thanks to Moore’s law, which states that the power of computing doubles approximately every two years, pupils now hold more technological power in their hands than an entire school had 30 years ago. Tablets and iPads are ubiquitous, with one for every pupil in some cases. Lessons can be recorded and distributed as podcasts. Notes and teaching materials are stored online through virtual learning environments, fully accessible from home. ICT is being replaced with more sophisticated computing or computer science courses.’

Whether the rise in technology is damaging a child’s development or creating a superior learning environment is the very topic of the next Spectator event. We’ll be examining the always-on generation with a stellar lineup including the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, the psychologist and author Oliver James, our Wiki Man columnist Rory Sutherland and Microsoft’s chief online safety officer Jacqueline F. Beauchere. Book your tickets here!

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