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The Impact of Technology on Children

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Young children have become very adept with modern technology. Whether it is showing grandma how to send a text or playing with their computer games, they know how to do it. While it is beneficial to be computer savvy and not a technophobe, it can cause some problems. Dr Iain McGilchrist, who is a medical doctor and a former Oxford literary graduate, said that children of five years old, who spend a lot of time using technology, find it more difficult to interpret facial expressions. He said that teachers have told him that about a third of their 5 to 7 year olds can’t concentrate or read facial expressions. During a recent interview with the Telegraph he said “These teachers have been teaching for 30 years and have found only a couple of people not able to do these simple tasks. People are finding it increasingly difficult to communicate at an emotional level in what appears to be the features of autism”.

He added that “Children spend more time engaging with machines and with virtual reality than they used to in the past, where they don’t have to face the consequences of real life. In virtual environments they don’t have to interpret the subtle cues of real-like environments like when they are playing with children in the woods. Small children are not getting the same individual face-to-face attention as before and when they are at home with the family, the family is multitasking and the child is in front of the T.V or an Ipad screen, which is quite worrying. It is hardly surprising that we are not as good at reading human faces and interacting with human beings if we are engaging with the virtual world”.

However Dr. Nadja Reissland, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Durham University said that there are different reasons why children may appear to lack empathy. They may not feel comfortable about talking about their emotions. They could be from different cultures where they don’t display their emotions. If English is not their first language they may not entirely understand what the person is saying. This will cause them to be slower at reading facial expressions.

I think that children certainly do seem to spend a lot of time engaging with technology rather than engaging socially. Perhaps this is partly contributing to children being unable to concentrate, or to read facial expressions. Although I do think that there are a number of other reasons why children are not clued in to reacting to facial expressions. I think if a child’s attention span is not good, then they may not pay attention to a person’s facial expressions. This is different to not being able to read their facial expressions. Their concentration could be poor due to an inadequate diet, problems at home, ADD etc. I think it is important to look at the bigger picture in relation to this, and not just blame it on the one area (technology).

What are you thoughts on this topic?





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