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In a digital world, are our children becoming detached from reality?

Group of children smiling at the camera

In 1995 less than 1% of the world population had access to the internet. Fast forward to 2016 and approximately 40% of the entire planets occupants have the world at their fingertips. With almost half of the world accessing online materials – there is no defined explicit common user.

From silver surfers to tactile toddlers tapping at a screen and everyone in between – the internet and all associated technologies are more accessible to most people in the developing world than ever before.

But what does this mean for our teens?

The Children’s Commissioner for England warned recently, that children starting secondary school were on a ‘cliff edge’ as they entered the world of cyber bullying and pornography. Even a recent issue of Wired – the techie go-to magazine declared ‘the internet is broken’.

Parents, carers and those in positions of pastoral care for our young people are asking themselves ‘have we allowed the internet to go too far with our youth, have they become detached from reality?’.

A recent report identified that one in three British 15-year olds are ‘extreme internet users’ – spending at least six hours a day on line. Over 34% of those UK children have experienced cyberbullying, accessed harmful content or had a negative experience.

Ruth Dalton, Group Head of Communications and Marketing for New Directions comments on the topic ‘the rise and rise of an online lifestyle for teens is catastrophic. There is never a time when our young people seem to be detached from social platforms. Whilst I professionally work to enhance our messages to our communities via our digital platforms, I can switch off my PC at 5pm (ha…) most evenings and enjoy the reality of the real world’

Dalton continues ‘there are literally endless possibilities regards social sites our teens have access to. Most have mobile phones and a ton of free time. They leave school at 3pm but often they never switch off from their peer groups. As a parent, it is worrying’.

The benefits in the classroom

There is no doubt that technology and the internet has had a huge impact in schools across the UK. Students have access to so much more information, with a greater speed than ever before.

Culture and diversity features and impacts in our classrooms more than ever before – Skype calls with schools on the other side of the planet and projects that link Sudan to Scotland and Wales to Western Sahara. Our planet is more linked than ever before.

Technology is a wonderful opportunity for our pupils, but with it comes great responsibility and we must ensure that we protect and cultivate healthy relationships with our devices from the silver surfer to the tactile toddler and beyond.

On February 6th 2018, New Directions took part in the international ‘Safer Internet Day’ – take a look at our guide for schools here.

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