Every generation thinks the one below it is the worst, and we millennials are no different. While we were socially being antisocial on our Tamagotchis in the school playground, our parents were probably thinking WTF. However, now we watch kids with their own iPhone X and Instagram accounts judging their peers and we are definitely thinking WTF. How has social media and technology redefined what it means to be a child in only ten years? We compare what precious childhood years mean for those born in 1995 versus 2005.
When we were ten years old we were sitting in the backseat of the family car drinking poppers in our older sibling’s hand-me-downs while listening to the Lion King audiotape. Ten-year-olds today have their Ipads, earphones and spend backseat time watching YouTube videos; probably anything that’s the opposite of the Lion King. What I’m getting at here is that a sense of innocence has been lost over the last decade for children born between mid-nineties and those born in the last five to ten years. It’s crazy to think about how much has changed; how the general idea of childhood reflecting natural and organic activities like tree climbing and digging for worms has been swapped with artificial intelligence and new and exciting gadgets.
I won’t paint our childhood to be the ultimate representation of complete purity; near the end of primary school we would all attempt to find out about porn, and sneakily watch racy music videos with our friends at sleepovers to entertain and humour ourselves, or perhaps to encourage our curiosity. However, children today seem to be allowed to have this type of hypersexual content exposed to them in the family TV room with their desensitised parents right with them; how is this okay? When I was in early primary school, Gwen Stefani’s elicit music video Hollaback Girl was the height of childhood playground gossip around primary school for the whole year because everyone was in equal shock. Don’t even get me started on the Black Eyed Peas’ My Humps video. The music content designed for children’s entertainment today (I’m looking at you Katy Perry and Ariana Grande) is much the same as ten years ago, but the kids’ reactions are blasé – they’re completely overexposed to sexualised content.
ABS released data in 2012 suggesting that 29 per cent of children in Australia aged five to 14 years of age have a mobile phone. With this percentage growing (as well as most of these children being signed up to social media accounts) we should be growing more concerned. I think I signed up for Facebook when I was nearly sixteen, but that’s probably just me. Younger boys and girls are already as addicted to the wonders and lunacy of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat as we are. But it’s not just the fact that they have these accounts and how much time they’re spending on social media and technology, but how they’re navigating their profiles and using these apps. How they’re presenting themselves online is a whole other issue.
With apps at childhood fingertips, there is a fine line between what’s safe and what isn’t. I can confirm apps like Temple Run and Candy Crush are most definitely safe – apart from the digital nicotine we consume that brings us back for more. One app in particular stands out with major red flags: Tik Tok. It’s a media app that lets people create and share short videos. Apps like these may appear harmless, but an inconceivable amount of damage is occurring to young kids. Two nine-year-old girls I babysit casually play around with the app and actually judge girls in their year at school who made videos on their own profile; videos that seemed a little too crude, and slightly provocative for that age level. It’s recommended you are 16 years or over to use the app due to the access to explicit popular music and inappropriate content, yet kids who are a lot younger are still using it. While we made home videos when we were nine years old with a camera that could probably now be sold on eBay as a collector’s item, kids are creating public videos for anyone to see, with huge potentials for harm.
At the same time, there are surprising responses from children who are dealing with online harm from strangers on Tik Tok; a lot of kids are making informed decisions and taking the right course of action. If a stranger sends a friend request, they will either deny it or tell a parent; they’re also aware of the fact that anything you put on the internet is there forever. We grew up in an era where social media wasn’t trusted by adults and so children in this generation have grown up to always be wary and suspicious, unlike our generation. Nowadays, it’s strange to meet somebody who isn’t on Facebook or Instagram, so online activity is an inherited trait for young people. Now that social media is pretty much a day-to-day norm, parents have perhaps slightly relaxed on patrolling their children’s online use because ‘all kids are online and maybe it’s okay now’. Parents may not be effectively teaching our young people to really consider the implications of what they’re posting and who can see it (*cough* everyone).
Growing up in the digital age will inevitably make everything a little more tempting, more addictive and more accessible. We all wonder what our poor 2015 rugrats will face throughout their childhood.