Passing Notes Vs. Texting: The Technology Challenges Facing Today’s Children

As a child I remember passing notes in school. Sneakily writing at my desk, inconspicuously passing them to the intended reader, and trying not to get caught by the teacher. It was all very exciting and slightly mischievous! The worst was when my teacher actually did catch us and took the note away, sometimes even reading it out to the whole class. I think to myself and count the years back to my years of elementary, middle school, and even high school. Am I some sort of ancient? I mean, it wasn't THAT long ago. I've been out of school for only six years.

I have a niece who is now is grade six and talking to her makes me realize how much times have changed. Next year she will be in middle school and she thinks she is ready for a cellphone. I asked her why she needed one and she said she wanted to text her friends. “Don't you write them notes?” I asked.

She replied, “Notes? Why would you pass notes?”

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Apparently kids are carrying cellphones as early as eight and nine years old these days. I understand the safety factor of knowing you can get a hold of your child at any time and vice versa, but I don't think parents really take into consideration all the other factors that come along with a child having a cellphone. Monitoring usage and calls can only go so far. If the wrong person gets your child's number, your child may be at risk. Although I am all for connecting the world, this is one gray area that I think parents need to be aware of. "Parents are totally clueless about what kids are doing on cell phones. They are taking pictures, surfing the Web, playing games and MP3s. They are harassing each other, cyberbullying," says child safety advocate Parry Aftab. Not only that, video games are also being made for cellphones. The downside of this is the technology to regulate the ratings of these games and who is downloading them does not yet exist. Kids can easily download games rated M (for Mature) in the online stores without their parents ever knowing. This includes video games with sex and violence. For instance, "Prince of Persia," by Gameloft, urges players to rescue a kidnapped harem of women. "The Sultan’s wives have been kidnapped by the Vizier in order to carry out experiments on abstinence. The Sultan’s real mad! He no longer knows how to express his desires. Seven female prisoners — and only you can set them free and bring them back to life!" the game's description reads.

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Video games are part of a huge industry that is growing daily. Some, computer and video games these days are so realistic that it's easy to get pulled in and actually live through the game itself. Sometimes we poke fun at the stereotype of the nerd who turned his chair into a toilet and doesn't get up because he plays his game every waking moment, just to maintain his high score, (some of you may have seen a South Park episode about this), but I see this happening more and more with children and young teenagers. The violence these children are exposed to might very well have a deep psychological and physical impact. Because video games are a newer than TV and movies there hasn't been as much research done on them. Studies by psychologists such as Douglas Gentile, PhD, and Craig Anderson, PhD, show it is likely that violent video games may have even stronger effects on children's aggression because (1) the games are highly engaging and interactive, (2) the games reward violent behavior, and because (3) children repeat these behaviors over and over as they play (Gentile & Anderson, 2003). Psychologists know that each of these help learning - active involvement improves learning, rewards increase learning, and repeating something over and over increases learning. Studies by these psychologists also show that children are spending more time playing video games. An average of 13 hours a week for boys and 5 hours a week for girls. Childhood obesity is on the rise which is truly sad to see. Kids are staying indoors playing games, watching TV, and computer surfing instead of going to the park, taking the dog for a walk, or engaging in extra-curricular activities. Is this to blame for Childhood Diabetes and ADHD (shorter attention spans)? The CDC claims the epidemics of obesity and the low level of physical activity among young people may be major contributors to the increase in Type 2 (Adult) diabetes during childhood and adolescence.

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Technology has helped our society in countless ways such as medical breakthroughs, keeping us organized and making tedious tasks less stressful. We are all capable of bring connected at anytime, anywhere. We have the ability to access virtually anything, even if it’s across the world, in a matter of seconds. As a collective, technology has helped us advance faster than ever before. The new tech-savvy generation is well aware of this and take full advantage of it. They can learn how to use programs by watching tutorials, learn how to play instruments, and also how to cook Methamphetamine. The world wide web is open to anyone and everyone and it doesn't care who is on the other end. A new era has come fast. So fast that no one really knows how to deal with these “gray area” sort of issues yet, and its moving forward even faster. Soon we could find ourselves in some very sticky situations.