Most people around the globe including children can have access to home computers or mobile phones more than they ever did. Children normally rely on computers and the Internet for different purposes which range from playing games and doing school homework to chatting with friends and relatives. However, the steady rise of computer use among children over time has brought with it concerns over its negative effects on the development of children, both physically and psychologically. These negative effects, according to Greenfield and Gross (2001), emanate from various sources, among which is the displacement or substitution of interpersonal or real communication with people on a daily basis with virtual media where one becomes circumscribed in a specific time and place. This essay, nonetheless, aims at examining the impact of displacing the real world with the virtual one in terms of children’s computer use. Some of the negative effects of this impact include but are not limited to obesity, changing social norms, and violence.
It is true that computers have made our life much easier by making communication between individuals a quick process and more importantly by improving children’s academic performance, but they have also contributed to childhood obesity. Childhood obesity tripled in the past few decades, with a percentage increasing from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008 among children whose ages range from 6 to 11 years. These statistics show that childhood obesity is a direct result of the imbalance between the quantity of food children eat and the amount of physical activity they perform. Unfortunately, many children heavily depend on a computerised, sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition. Sedentary behaviours such as TV viewing, computer use, and excessive video gaming often substitute indispensible physical activity in children. The fact that children overuse fast foods, convenience store snacks and beverages nowadays adds salt to injury. Whilst using computers, children tend to be fully focused on their screen space; being mentally focused on the screen drains their brain energy and they thus tend to consume more food. The excessive consumption of food comes at the expense of the lack of bodily mobility, hence obesity.
The ability to instantly contact anyone may pose a risk to young children because fast communication through the Internet offers a social experience that is different from face-to-face conversations. When children, for example, communicate with their friends using computers, they usually hide behind the “digital wall.” This digital wall prevents any kind of straightforward correspondence between children and the real world that surrounds them. This repetitive use of computers makes children feel more lonely and depressed. Since computers offer an immediate access to people’s lives and information, children feel they have to depend much on computer screens. These screens become the only medium of contact, and they thus feel isolated since they feel they only talk to “screens.” If children rely heavily on screens instead of faces, their knowledge of the social world decreases and they become attuned to a technological environment where they lose the knowledge of social laws of communication and proper rules or standards of understanding others.
One cannot also deny that computers affect children negatively as computers may expose them to violence. There are some popular entertainment software that often involves games with competition and aggression. The amount of aggression and violence has increased with the progress of video game production throughout the years. In addition,parents do not often pay attention to violence experienced in video gaming. This could actually lead to disastrous effects, as witnessed in Columbine High School shooting in the US in 1999. Watching or playing violent programmes on computers thus often increases children’s hostility, and this makes them desensitised to others’ suffering. Watching violent games on home computers, to put it differently, makes children completely less pro-social such as donating money, helping someone, or taking part in charity.
In conclusion, it becomes obvious that computers could have a number of negative effects on children and the way the react to things, either physically or psychologically. These effects range from obesity, the violation of social norms to encouraging violence. However, some still argue that computers can be used properly in order to reflect positively on the development of children and the progress of their learning and general activities.
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