We’re living in an era of ‘cyber kids’, who hang out with cyber friends, talk cyber talk and travel for free throughout a never ending cyber world. Social media marketing is leaving TV and radio behind to keep up with this new turn in human social behaviour.
Back in the day….childhood leisure time seemed to be all about spending hours playing outside with the neighbours children, skipping ropes, roller boots, making mud pies, blowing bubbles, eating bubble gum and letting the imagination provide the days’ entertainment….or something along those lines anyway.
Picking strawberries from my grandparents back garden and watching my granddad digging up the potatoes he planted every year now seems like a rare memory to cherish.
I remember the thrill of the ice cream van melody outside my house and running to get a 99, rocket or twister; and what about good old fashioned penny sweets – I didn’t need much pocket money for a sugary treat back then!
‘Anxiety’ was linked to things like being worried I might fly off the seesaw in the local park – it was pretty high.
There was always a fashion trend, but nothing bank breaking, nothing that seemed unachievable or unrealistic.
Posters on my bedroom wall, but not a selfie in sight.
Not that I’m saying this childhood picture has ceased, it just seems to be heavily over shadowed by the ways of the ‘fourth age’, the technological age.
Todays childhood picture seems increasingly more like this:
- spending hours scrolling and checking ‘likes’
- the excitment of a new notification
- the rubbing of hands at the release of the latest smart phone
- the anxiety over reactions to the latest Instagram story
- the anxiety of trying to live up to images on Instagram etc..
- falling behind with revision due to time spent on a smart phone
- less meet ups and more ‘messages’
- from a younger and younger age, children aspiring to be much older than their years
- Snapchat over a real chat
- Comparing apps
Don’t get me wrong, I think there are a lot of useful and positive things about social media if used in a controlled way – and not ‘needed’ for a feeling of identity and self worth.
There’s an episode of Black Mirror that paints a picture of a world where all citizens are measured, judged, awarded and punished according to their social media popularity…..e.g. a woman being denied access onto a flight because her ‘like’ count had dipped. The count feeds into a global system that affects everything including her ability to secure housing/get credit. Scary!!
You might have picked up on the increasing popularity of the term ‘anxiety’, and the growing number of children and young people (not to mention adults) using it as a diagnosis for not leaving their house and engaging in the real world….it’s become quite a common buzz word these days.
There seems to be a lot of evidence suggesting social media has a lot to do with the rise in childhood depression.
Children and teens are trying to grow up in front of an ever demanding and competitively driven audience. There is pressure on them to feed this audience with images and information about themselves that will impress and measure up to the glamour of ‘cyber life’.
“Often such children will refuse to travel to psychiatrist appointments, so a range of professionals have to make home visits to deal with the issue. It can take months to persuade them to leave their bedrooms” BBC News
Cyber bullying is an ever present occurrence for children and young people – a potentially 24hr seven days a week onslaught.
We all know the internet is a playground for human traffickers seeking both adults and children to groom for exploitation. This is a severe problem, globally – despite very rarely being spoken about in the mainstream media. Children and teens are more vulnerable to these types of predators – as if parents haven’t got enough to worry about…..
Many children and teens are staying up till all hours of the school night, keeping up with all the ‘goings-on’ in the cyber world, too enticed to switch off; they arrive at school yawning and unable to concentrate.
“Children are also inclined to reduce the hours that they sleep in order to stay connected, which can cause them to be irritable, stressed and depressed, or abandon their hobbies and school obligations not related to ICT” Source
Living in Fantasy Land
It’s not the real world – but people (not just children) are living through it as though it is more ‘real’ than what goes on offline. A world where everything and everyone is perfect, depending on who you follow and what images come through in your feed.
These kids are living in a fictional world, sometimes to the detriment of their physical health. They might have physical ill-health, like toothache, but they are still not wanting to leave their virtual worlds,” BBC News
Today, children are growing up in a world with a lot more artificial distraction, unnecessary social pressures, a greater shift toward online presence, cyber communities and tech skills. Good or bad, it’s the way the world is evolving; the trick is to find a balanced way of remaining healthy within it.