From the Stone Age to the microchip: Technology and youth development

From the Stone Age to the microchip: Technology and youth development

Technology youth development
We would never have imagined having the world at our fingertips just 30 years ago. What are the ramifications of this technology explosion?

This familiar scene would have been science fiction less than 30 years ago. Gone are the days when a whole room was needed to house a computer or we had to find a phone box to call someone. Most of us remember relying on libraries to find information, street directories to navigate our way around, and getting a roll of film developed to see our photos. Some scientists even recall calculating long, complicated scientific formulas by hand.

Technology has evolved at an astronomical pace. Over the past 20 years desktop computers have evolved from 400-500-megabyte hard disk drives, with 4-megabyte RAM and 1.4-megabyte data storage disks, to 500-gigabyte and even terabyte hard drives. Not only that, nearly everyone has a portable phone with an inbuilt computer that far exceeds the capacity of desktop computers 20 years ago. During this time, the internet entered our homes. This heralded the Internet generation, starting with children born in 1994. The internet made its way to smart phones just 10 years ago. In a short space of time, our lives have been transformed by technology and today’s teenagers are the first generation who are virtually living their lives online.

This technology explosion has unlocked the door to a whole new realm. It has given us constant, interactive access to an unprecedented volume of information and entertainment. At the same time, we are grappling to understand and deal with its impact on child and youth development. Tweens (8-12 year olds) and teenagers spend six to nine hours a day using media for enjoyment alone (not including homework) – more time than most spend sleeping on average. Even a third of pre-schoolers now own their own iPad or computer game console. And Australians are among the biggest internet users worldwide.

How does this media exposure affect youths’ physical and mental health, ability to learn, perceive and understand the world, develop their identities, values and beliefs? What is the impact on interactions and communication, developing intimacy, and relationships? All that we really know so far is that the answers to these questions are very complex.

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Published in: Health & PE, Vol 1(3), pp. 7-13, Warringal Publications.

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