Exposure to Mobile Technology Can Shorten Childhood? So What?

By Intel Free Press [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Intel Free Press [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In what can be considered as a drawback of technology exposure, an expert has warned that mobile technology, along with a number of other factors, is “fast-forwarding” childhood. Child and adolescent psychoanalytical psychotherapist Colman Noctor believes that the youth at present are regularly getting exposed to things that speed up their mindset into becoming adults. Noctor reckons that mobile technology, in particular, is making it easier for children and teens to access contents that include drugs, sex, vices, and other mature themes.

Noctor is doing a paper for his PhD on the impact of social media on the youth. He is interested to explore the dynamics behind the youth’s compulsion to always show themselves in their most appealing state, adopting a consciousness that is putting great emphasis on how others perceive them. For Noctor, this demonstrates a more mature, adult-like behavior for which they are unprepared. He thinks that young people are not psychologically yet ready in emulating what a “sexualized, fully-formed human being” is typically doing.

Noctor was interviewed for an Irish investigative documentary show called “Is Childhood Shrinking?” aired on Newstalk. The documentary was supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund and was aimed at examining the effect of various modern elements on childhood. Much of Noctor’s opinions or assertions are pointing out the apparent inappropriateness of an adult-like environment kids and teens are exposed to because of social media and mobile technology. His opinions are supported by the documentary co-producer and presenter, Sheena Horgan, who said that “(Irish) childhood is tainted by consumerism and sexualized imagery, accelerated by a mobile technology that is often unsupervised by parents.”

By Intel Free Press [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Intel Free Press [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

For now, there are no concrete numbers to quantify mobile technology’s adverse effects on childhood. However, it’s not difficult to believe that mobile technology, social media, and a host of other factors prominent in modern society are contributing to the quick maturing of kids and teens’ minds. With mobile technology, in particular, the following are quite evident:

Unmonitored Mobile Internet Access

The Internet is an overwhelmingly rich source of information and it has the ability to shape young minds. With mobile devices now capable of accessing the web more easily, it’s almost impossible to control what kids are able to see and hear online. There are parental control apps available but not many parents bother to install them on the devices they give to their children.

Games and Multimedia with Mature Themes

Similarly, the games and multimedia content kids are able to download and carry around on their mobile devices can influence their mental development. The applications available on app stores are generally created for adult users. However, other than the ratings (general patronage, PG-xx, etc) posted along with the apps, the aptness of app access is merely discretionary. It doesn’t matter if the device user who tries to install an app is a minor or a grade schooler.

With sex, violence, and vice based apps easily accessible, it’s easy to see how children easily lose their childhood-appropriate perspectives because of mobile technology.

Parents Also Need to Minimize Mobile Tech Use?

Parents’ use of mobile devices could be affecting their kids. This is according to a study conducted by researchers at Boston Medical Center. They observed 55 groups of parents and young children at fast-food restaurants. They found that children tend to act up more as their parents spend more time with their mobile devices. As kids and toddlers feel ignored or neglected, they tend to do things that can attract attention to them. That’s why they try to upset their parents or guardians if they fail to get a reaction or affirmation.

The “childhood fast-forwarding” effect can be linked to this study. In some instances when kids fail to get their parents’ attention, they may not resort to tantrums or acting up. With the help of mobile technology or gadgets, they may try to discover new avenues for self expression as they seek attention or affirmation from other people. Social media nurtures this kind of tendency, with young users of Facebook or Twitter posting things that solicit attention or praise.

Is a “Fast-Forwarded” Childhood Bad?

People may have different opinions on this question but what is clear is that there are many cases of children acting like adults too soon who eventually lead unhappy lives. The best examples: child actors and musicians. It’s a common perception that many people who have not enjoyed enough of their childhood tend to live less-than-desirable lives as they grow older.

Still, it can be said that there’s nothing wrong with mobile technology. It’s the human guidance, influence, and discretion that make technology an advantage or drawback for younger users. It’s how people deal with technology that spells the outcomes.