By Joanna Cunningham
As a 90s baby, I was one of the last groups of children to be reared on traditional toys and entertainment. My access to television was restricted until I had finished my homework, and I was always encouraged to colour-in, read, write, dress-up, or play outside with my friends before anything else. Of course, everyone is bias about their own childhood, seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles. However, I truly believe that, by nurturing my imagination through these activities, I gained the ability to think for myself, and be ambitious and daring. That’s not to say that younger people don’t have these attributes, but can we see a difference in modern children with the influence of technology?
With the ever-growing influence of social media and the internet, children now have access to an huge array of negative influences. It is no coincidence that mental health issues are at an all-time high, with images of the “ideal” man and woman circulating every social media platform, and an huge lack of variety in body shapes, colours, and sizes, throughout Hollywood. Even as a 21-year-old woman who is comfortable in my skin, I am constantly negatively impacted by these images, so can you imagine what an impressionable child might think if they do not conform to these “ideals”? Indeed, we see examples of children as young as 5 working out to attain a body that is simply not feasible for them until after puberty.
We also see numerous men and women augmenting their bodies through plastic surgery to conform to these “ideals”. Take Megan, from Love Island, for example – she made her first physical changes at the age of 14, and allegedly opted for lip fillers and a breast augmentation before her 20th birthday – she was not even out of her teens before she had completely changed her image! Of course, this was her choice, and she is now clearly much more comfortable with the way she looks, however, what influences made her feel inadequate to begin with?
Moreover, with greater access to pornography, children are subject to unrealistic expectations about sex from such a young age, removing emotional connection from sex completely. Indeed, many young boys are unaware of the fact that, when a woman is in pain and says “no”, this is cause to stop immediately. We are teaching our men to disrespect women, and our women to feel inadequate in themselves through this access to technology.
There is, of course, the argument that, even without technology, children would still have access to images which spread these negative ideologies. Indeed, plastic surgery has been around for over 100 years and, with access to magazines, children would still be exposed to these “ideal” images. Therefore, why should we restrict technology if everyone is using it, and if it would make little difference without it anyway?
There is also the idea that porn is just a small part of a much wider issue of men disrespecting women, and is not just perpetuated by pornography. Indeed, men have been tailored to believe that women are their property since the dawn of time, so surely this should be in the jurisdiction of the parents to teach their boys the importance of the word “no”. Thus, is it really technology, or the impacts of society and poor parenting skills which are the root causes of these issues?
There are also, admittedly, some benefits to having access to this vast array of internet wonders. Children are now privy to a wealth of knowledge which they would otherwise have struggled to obtain, and can now write better informed essays and articles with just a few clicks of their mouse. Children can also have more lucid access to politics and the news, allowing them to get much more involved in wider issues from a younger age than perhaps previously.
We could also say that modern children have a great many more transferable skills due to the influence of technology, including communication, typing, writing, and researching, and have access to an even greater variety of jobs through technological platforms, such as YouTube.
So, is it really technology, or society that have these negative impacts on children? A little bit of both I’d say. However, I am certainly of the opinion that children these days have access to much more material which steals their childhood away prematurely. Let them be kids while they can, as we all know the horrors of becoming an adult…