The other day, a child cried in the metro. His mom handed him her smartphone. He was satisfied as he browsed over various cartoon shows on YouTube. The child was hardly 5 years old. This is the digital era and there is no right age to be digital. The hard task is not about when to access the digital world but how to use it properly.
People from all age groups today are exposed to technology. Those who are excluded are either unaware or missing out on a lot of stuff. Children without access to the tech-world are referred to as ‘Digital Orphans’ and parents who are technologically challenged are termed as old fashioned. In the professional world, there is no age limit to becoming digital because not much can be done without its use. Be it a freshly graduated student, a middle aged man or woman or an elderly person, all are expected to come online.
Talking about social media sites, there are limitations on age but they are mostly overlooked. For instance, under 13s are not permitted to make their own profile on Facebook. YouTube requires account holders to be 18, but a 13-year-old can sign up with a parent’s permission. Here comes the importance of parental control. So, while children can be happily allowed to use the internet, they should be supervised accordingly too. There is a lot of unwanted or unethical content floating around on the internet which can corrupt gullible minds. When elders today face the risk of cyber crime and become victims of stalking etc. it is easy to see the repercussions for children.
The internet exposes children and teenagers to a wide array of knowledge and entertainment. It helps them to connect well, to know what’s happening around the world and hone their skills through internet based learning. It might also help in rapid development of the brain when infants are exposed to technology but can hamper attention span too. As children become teenagers, they become more aware of what is right or wrong for them. For parents of this age who were used to going to the library and playing outdoor games, it becomes a daunting task to manage their children when they play online and search for information on the net. They have to be told how to protect their public profiles, how to distinguish between good and bad sites and how to report suspicious activity without fear.
Another target population for discussion is that of the elderly. Most of them feel secluded when it comes to digital media. They hesitate in asking for help when they cannot manage the internet. Moreover, many feel ashamed that they are not tech-savvy. Here it becomes important to tell them that there is no right age for getting digital and that understanding the internet world becomes easy with guidance and training. Technology can help them to manage their finances and health medications. It can let them get in touch with long lost friends or distanced relatives and even deal with safety or health issues like Alzheimer’s disease.
Apart from these sections of society, people living in rural or semi-urban areas should be encouraged to come online irrespective of age. They should understand how technology can help them and simplify their lives while recognising the ill-effects too. However it is equally important to supervise digital usage since it can be easily utilized for wrongful activities like terrorism, hacking etc. and can serve as a threat to privacy.
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