Internet use and child behaviour

Exploring the links between technology and internet use and how it can affect a child's behaviour.

We are spending increasing amounts of time online with our personal technology devices. Too much of anything can become a bad thing, but it is when bad things become a behavioural problem that can affect our children and their development that we must take action quickly.
We first need to understand how technology and internet use can affect a child’s behaviour in order to strike the right balance for positive effects over negative.

Reduced Ability for Making 'Real' Friends
It has been proven that the number of social contacts any one person can manage is no more than 150. This is known as Dunbar's number.
Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter allow children as young as 13 to sign up to their platforms. If you take a look at a young person’s online 'connections' across social channels, plus their text and WhatsApp messaging, they could potentially have thousands of contacts.
That is what they are, contacts. They do not know each other well or care for each other. Some may not even be real.
According to Dunbar, children who spend much of their time online 'socialising' will not gain enough real-world experience forming meaningful relationships, and less able to cope in large crowds.
Online socialising can harm a child's competency in real-world social situations, rather than improve them.

Cyber Bullying and Low Self Esteem
Through building these many connections online, children can be exposed to online bullying. It is far too easy for someone to type whatever they, want directly to anyone, without there being any consequence.
Online bullying is a big problem that institutions are starting to combat.
Cyberbullying, as with any bullying, can lead to emotional development issues as well as have a huge effect on their self-esteem.

Decreased Attention Span and Distraction
Through the use of technology, such as with apps, games and social media, children become easily distracted with it. Studies have found that children are often watching TV, surfing the internet and using other forms of media, all whilst doing their homework.
Whilst children are growing and developing, they are also learning how to concentrate and organise information. With the distraction of technology, plus constant advertising within this world, their attention may not be held in the same way. This can lead to developing ADHD like symptoms in times when concentration is needed, such as during lessons at school.

A Lack of ‘Privacy’
Teens are savvy enough to know which content they should make private, yet what they care about people knowing is different from what millennials mind people knowing, which again is different from baby boomers.
Whilst many do not care who knows their full name, race, age, religion or location, there are a lot that do care about what others can see. Teens tend to alter their settings depending on who they want to see it, and what they want those people to think about them.
They are also very clued up on other areas of privacy - what their parents, aunts, uncles, and increasingly, what their grandparents can see.
Whilst teens may not mind sharing what school they attended, they can, and will hide other aspects of their life from family, such as evidence of where they said they were, to where they actually were, or perhaps an outfit that was a little too inappropriate.

Reduced Critical Thinking
Through the increasing use of technology and internet use, there has been a decrease in regular reading. Even the content that is being read on the internet may be of a poor standard grammatically. If we look at social media content, posts are short, with Twitter limited to just 280 characters per post.
This lack of reading is reducing children's abilities to think critically or expand on their thoughts, something that is important for exploring new ideas or problem solving.

Increased Aggressive Behaviour
Research has shown that children who view violent acts are more likely to show aggressive behaviour. It can show them that there is a dangerous and scary side to the world, that something bad could happen to them.
Without proper monitoring of internet usage, this content may be viewed by a child, either by accident or on purpose. It is also likely that you will not be aware that your child has seen this type of material. It is important therefore to limit your child’s access to this type of content that, without the internet, they would perhaps never have seen.