Technology can transform the way children learn, connect and discover opportunities for their wellbeing and development. In a world of growing inequalities and uncertainties, technology can be a source of empowerment, enabling children to become the authors of their futures and to rise above the cycle of disadvantage. In the digital age, children and young people engage with multiple media such as mobile phones, the internet, digital television and game consoles in their everyday lives.

As the influence of digital technology and especially the internet has increased, it carries the immense potential to solve some of the developmental challenges faced by young people. UNICEF set out to uncover how the internet and digital technology are helping and hindering children’s learning, wellbeing and social relationships. The report makes a clear call to governments, the digital technology sector and telecom industries to level the digital playing field for children and adolescents by creating policies, practices and products that can help children and adolescents harness digital opportunities and protect them from harm.

There’s no doubt that much of this discourse around digital technology reflects genuine concerns. But in all of it, something is too often left out, the insights and experiences of children and young people themselves. Far from being uncritical users of digital technology, children and young people have strong opinions: They greatly appreciate the upsides and the opportunities for social connection, the fun of creating and sharing videos, the chance to learn new skills and research schoolwork. But they also understand the downsides, and sometimes with a subtlety that many adults born in a more analogue era cannot match. The views of children and young people matter, and not just because of their right to expression. They matter because, as users of technology and the internet, children and young people often enjoy high levels of autonomy, so their knowledge and attitudes determine what they do online and why. And they matter because this generation will live in a digital world for the rest of their lives, shaping and potentially being shaped by digital technology and connectivity

Digital technology can be a game changer for disadvantaged children, offering them new opportunities to learn, socialize and make their voices heard or it can be yet another dividing line. Millions of children are left out of an increasingly connected world. As digital technology rapidly evolves, the concern is that teenager’s lives are dominated by digital media and the worry is that the digital deluge may affect their capacity to learn, to converse, to spell, and more have they no time for the leisurely face-to-face conversations of old, for spending time with family, or even for a good night’s sleep uninterrupted by the glowing screen of a smartphone.

Training enables young people to improve their communication, collaboration and resilience in professional settings and virtual environment for young people to prepare for workplace scenarios that they would encounter on the job. The impact of digital technology on children and young people can seem striking. Indisputably, young people are getting more involved in using free online resources at their disposal to make positive changes in their communities. the important thing is that young people are taking a vested interest in their communities and are taking actions, whether small or large, to make these changes. Young people are then using the reach of their social media networks to spread the message far and wide and encourage others to learn more and take part. We should be supporting them for taking an interest in issues and making themselves more aware of the world around them.

Learning to use digital technology is vital to youth’s development and their capacity to contribute to their communities. What teenagers wish for most is control over how they spend their time and with whom, not just to use digital media for its own sake. But as youth around the globe develop common behaviors and attitudes stemming from their interaction with new media and communication tools, we can speak at some level of global youth culture and a global generation that can rise and become active if they are able to access and exploit resources, innovate politically and culturally, and cultivate strategic leader

The wired members of this global generation have undoubtedly been able to innovate in global spheres, as evidenced by the explosion of ideas and creative content online. Digital inequality remains a reality, and large percentages of the population experience digital exclusion by virtue of their poverty, location, or other factors. But even in contexts where the young do not have access to the Internet, the ones who do influence and drive generational changes with far-reaching civic, cultural, and political consequences. Despite the much-hyped global network, there is very little evidence for a common global youth culture. The way media is used by kids actually reinforces local connections; most young people interact with people they know in their everyday environments.

Digital skills have become increasingly valuable across different functions. For example, there is a high demand for digital skills in sectors such as retail, hospitality, tourism and financial services. Across functions, digital skills can make young entry-level candidates more competitive for sales, customer service, human resources, data management, and information technology positions. Online career and recruitment platforms can help improve the efficiency of job matching across diverse sectors. The technology also helps youth identify skills gaps in relation to the job profiles of their interest, and offers them the opportunity to gain those skills through self-learning modules.

According to the World Bank Development Report on Digital Dividends (2016), the rapid spread of digital technologies around the world is boosting economic growth and expands opportunities in many instances; but the benefits of technological changes are not evenly distributed to workers globally. For high-skilled workers, technology in most cases complements their skills, increases their productivity, and often leads to higher wages. Whereas for middle and low-skilled workers, benefits depend on the degree to which technology either complements or substitutes workers in job functions.

Youth are coming of age in a digital era and learning and exercising citizenship in fundamentally different ways compared to previous generations. Around the globe, a monumental generational rupture is taking place that is being facilitated not driven in some inevitable and teleological process by new media and communication technologies. But to fully understand the rise of an active generation requires a more inclusive global lens, one that reaches to societies where high proportions of educated youth live under conditions of political repression and economic exclusion. The irony, however, is that adolescents are using digital media in ways that often exceed the capabilities of adults. They are the first adopters of many of the innovations that appear in this landscape, and they likely feel more comfortable using digital media than adults. Indeed, the new media offer novel ways to communicate that were not even conceivable to parents during their transition to adulthood.

Youths are always connected: hanging out, doing homework, sitting in class checking out their music, their photos, and their friends. It’s not the device; it’s the connection that matters.  The kids stay connected even when most of us are sleeping. They just have to connect to their peers and what’s out there.  It’s their reality, their world. Even though our children are skilled in using this digital world, adults still need to help them navigate it. They need our help to figure out how to impact their world and how the virtual world is impacting them.  They need our guidance in discerning right from wrong, good from bad, what builds up and what destroys. They need us to show them how to interact with others appropriately, how to protect themselves, and how to use their time wisely. Like most lessons in life, helping our kids navigate a digital world takes time and effort.

Compared to previous generations, youth coming of age in the digital era are learning and exercising citizenship in fundamentally different ways. Around the globe, a monumental generational rupture is taking place that is being facilitated not driven in some inevitable and teleological process by new media and communication technologies. Revolutions take place first of all in our minds; it is no wonder that the new generation witnessed a fair number of struggles to make the technology work, or sometimes to engage pupils with digital media in the classroom. teachers’ use of digital media in class or email or the internet to contact them at home is met with whispers and even slower walks home, so as to extract the maximum time spent with friends and unobserved by adults.

Children around the world are thinking in sophisticated ways about the positive and negative implications of digital technology; for themselves and their communities, now and into the future. They offer valuable insights for ongoing research, policy and practice efforts in this field. To harness the benefits of digital technology into the future, the global research, policy and practice community must urgently engage children in ongoing dialogue about how to minimize the risks and maximize their opportunities online. And we must embed children, as agents in their own right, at the heart of decision-making processes. For some, the potential to encounter harm while using digital technology makes them think twice about going online. Participants also sometimes perceive the rules imposed by parents, careers and schools, as well as limited digital literacy, as constraints on their digital practices. For those in low-income countries, in particular, adolescents’ need for reliable, regular and quality access is acute and requires a strong commitment from and action by states and other duty bearers.



Article by: Blessing Bassey

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