Questions have been raised about the effects of technology use at a young age and the potential impact that this may have on a child’s brain development. On a social level, the use of technology by children may inhibit their social development and makes it less likely that they will recognise human emotion, presumably leading to difficulty in feeling empathy or compassion towards others. Beyond basic development issues comes the issue of forming individual identity. Where before humans were only expected to develop a single working identity they are now expected to develop and maintain two—one in the physical world, and one in cyberspace.
This poses an issue on two levels: the first being the child’s own expectation of themselves in developing and maintaining two identities, the second being the expectation of them by others in the physical and digital spaces. On one hand, the digital space consists of a community whose members require an individual to be extroverted, attractive, interesting; on the other hand, the realities of the physical space demand the individual to be compliant, civilised, and ‘normal’. This split in identity isn’t realistic to maintain, and what may end up happening is that the more prominent, appealing identity ends up dominating and putting the other one at risk. In other words, a child, not yet having fully developed mentally or socially, will be far more vulnerable to criticism and may choose an identity that they feel will be accepted by those in the online community—abandoning the real life identity they hold separately in physical life.
Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.