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January 05, 2018 Friday 10:37:40 AM IST

Technology, it seems, is not taking over children's lives!

Parent Interventions

As children spend increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University research has revealed that as digital pastimes have become intertwined with daily life, children have adapted their behaviours to include their devices. Much like adults, they are able to multi-task and also do all the things that they would do anyway.

 

The study also reveals key gender differences in how children use technology. Although boys and girls spend similar amounts of time using devices, boys spend significantly more time playing videogames than girls, spending 50 mins per day, against girls' 9. The bulk of girls' time is spent engaging in study and socialising.

 


Conducted by Killian Mullan, a Senior Research Associate, at Oxford's Centre for Time Use Research in the Department of Sociology, the study combines data from two national UK Time Use Surveys 2000-01 and 2014-15, to study changes in screen-based activities and to build a detailed picture of the time children spend using technology.

 

Previous studies have focused on how much time children spend doing certain screen-based activities per day, but have not included any context of other activities (such as homework, dinner etc), making it difficult to fully appreciate how children incorporate the use of technology into their daily lives.

 


Killian said, 'The study reveals that rather than allowing their devices to take over their lives, as some research suggests, children are combining the use of new technology with other activities.'

 

For much of the time that children are using devices, they report engaging in a wide range of different activities including when at school, socialising, travelling, studying, eating, and playing sports. This raises important questions about the extent to which mobile devices are altering the nature of children's experiences. The overall amount of time spent on these activities did not change noticeably between 2000 and 2015, indicating that the amount of time that children use technology may be increasing, but is not reducing time spent on other activities.

 


Killian explains, 'Our findings show that technology is being used with, and in some cases perhaps to support, other activities like homework and not pushing them out. Just like we adults do, children spread their digital tech use throughout the day, while doing other things.' The study highlights how children's increasing use of technology is spread throughout the day while they are engaging in many other activities. Whether this ability to multi-task is effective, proving a distraction, or even affecting their mental health, is not clear and needs further investigation. However, what is clear is that technology is not consuming children's time and attention, as is commonly perceived.

 

Killian added, 'People think that children are addicted to technology and in front of these screens 24/7, to the exclusion of other activities - and we now know that is not the case. The bigger point is that, as for adults, children are incorporating technology into daily life. They are taking the tech with them and they are doing all the things that they would do anyway - but now with devices. On paper, the total time children spend using digital devices sounds huge. But, when you break it down the picture that emerges shows how children have embedded tech in their daily activities - just like we have.'

 


'Technology and children's screen-based activities in the UK: the story of the millennium so far' By Killian Mullan

 


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