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How technology has transformed childhood

It's difficult to think about a time that technology didn't exist. In fact, without computers or telephones, Toolkit Websites would simply not exist. Nowadays we spend a lot of time surfing the web or using devices in our day-to-day life without a second thought. But how is technology transforming the childhoods of those born in this day and age?

Below, we've put together a case study of some different age groups that we have in the office. And compared this to studies found about young children being born into this era with technology available to them from a very young age.

What was your childhood like? Did it involve technology? Does technology enhance your experience of childhood in anyway or does it cause issues that wouldn't occur without it? Let us know on Twitter using the hashtag #technologychildhood

First we take a look at Jamie's childhood. Born into a world before technology took off, he details the key points of technology entering his life below...

Jamie (Developer Liaison.)
Age: 32
Year of birth: 1983

"In comparison to now, my childhood was rather primitive but technology played a huge part. Remember this was the days where we had VHS recorders where the remote was on a lead!

Toys frequently took four D sized batteries which after a few months oozed brown fluid from the seams.

The first computer we had was a Spectrum. I am sure the changing of cassettes tapes although maybe not at the time, meant that you learnt patience and how to be delicate. I am sure I remember that some of the cassette boxes even had boosts of how many colours it had.

When I was a little older we bought a Commodore 500 (which we had upgraded to effectively be a 501). This had moved things forward with better graphics and more processing (but probably less than most kids toys now) and really was an early home desktop. Although most of my experience was playing games or may be the odd spell learning about databases (or data inputting all our VHS types as was closer to the truth). The Commodore had a ribbon dot matrix!!

We then progressed to a Windows 3.11 PC and due to Dad's job had dial up. Things then progressed with tech, through many other computers including homebuilt. During secondary school was the first time I had my own computer -or the family got theirs back?! Not too long before leaving secondary school I got a mobile phone - the ones that actually filled a blazer pocket!

I think being on/just before the cusp of the advancement of technology has made me more aware the fact I do see new technology to earn it's place. I do feel that there is definitely a generation gap between those who grew up prior to home desktop computing revolution of the early nineties. "Was I on the right side of the divide?" is another debatable as is "was lead paint truly damaging us?".

Next we take a look at Lanara's childhood in comparison. Born during the time that technology began to take off, she details the key points of her life that technology became apparent...

Lanara (Senior Project Manager.)
Age: 26
Year of birth: 1989

"My childhood occurred during the 90s. A time where the Spice Girls were storming Top of the Pops, and Furbies, Barbies and Tamagotchi's were the top items on the toy store shelves. When it came to activities it was mainly about playing outside, roller blading, cycling, skateboarding... up and down the close we would be outside from sunrise to sunset.

Technology didn't enter my life until I was about 12. I was handed a big brick of a phone called a Motorola. It had an aerial! I was told that I was to put it in my rucksack in case of emergency. My Mum would call me on it to tell me to come home from the park for dinner.

We had a home computer when I was 13 but it had dial-up. No one in the house really understood how it worked so we didn't really use it, plus you couldn't use the home phone whilst it was on either. I mainly played minesweeper on it, or used Paint to create really abstract looking pictures. I had a mobile phone of better quality by this point, a Nokia. It had snake on it, and beating my top score was my main priority.

I'd say technology entered my life properly in Middle school for IT lessons. From there, technology began to progress and become apart of day to day life. My Dad had a pager. I got a new up to date phone and begun texting my friends instead of having pen pals or ringing on their doorbell for them to come out.

Secondary school saw me rely on a laptop for school work and projects. CD players were replaced with MP3 players and then MP3 players evolved into iPods, and suddenly everyone had one.

Now that I'm in my 20's I use a computer every day. I have the first ever 4K phone on the market and I'm enthralled with it. I do all of my banking online, I keep in touch with all of my university peers online and I manage pretty much everything through the device in my pocket.

I'd say technology has improved many aspects of day to day life, but I would agree that it has caused more issues for children and teens. Cyber bullying wasn't an issue when I was younger, and there wasn't an issue with anonymous people getting in touch with you or 'cat fishing.' If you had a problem, it was dealt with face-to-face.

I am amazed by technology that we have these days. From fitness devices to cameras and phones that perform faster and better than computers. I love keeping up to date with the trends and learning about new capabilities and features. I do feel as though technology should be introduced slowly and in a controlled environment to the younger generation. Being addicted to technology is a real issue, and it can impact on studies, social relationships and become an over reliance for information.

There are pros and cons, and it must be used sensibly and in moderation."

So what about children born into this technology era?

According to a recent report by uSwitch, parents will collectively splash out over £3 billion on tech gifts for their children at Christmas, spending an average of £243 each.

“Children today are part of a digital generation that has grown up in a world surrounded by technology and the internet, and they are using mobile phones, tablets, e-readers and computers on a daily basis,” said Matt Leeser, head of buying for electricals and home technology at John Lewis.

“For some parents, this can be a rather daunting prospect, as they may have spent their childhood playing basic arcade games whereas their children are entertaining themselves with a variety of internet-enabled devices, and getting to grips with the latest technology quicker than them.” 

Other members of our team said:

"My first piece of technology was a flip phone. I was given it when I was 13 when I began walking to school alone." "My first piece of tech was my PS1. It became a part of my day to day life from then on in!"

But is technology 'ruining' childhood?

Research by web security firm AVG claims that "more small children can play a computer game or use a smart phone application than ride a bike, tie their own shoelaces or swim unaided."

However, there are also many benefits for children, with technology becoming part of the growing up process, developing an identity and connecting with friends.

According to Iain Miller, head of innovation at Rufus Leonard, "children should be allowed to embrace technology, but only as part of a broader existence, and in the knowledge that will change and shape them for better and for worse."

Psychologists on the other hand, believe that "because children's brains are still developing and malleable, frequent exposure by so-called digital natives to technology is actually wiring the brain in ways very different than in previous generations." What is clear is that, as with advances throughout history, the technology that is available determines how our brains develops. For example, as the technology writer Nicholas Carr has observed, "the emergence of reading encouraged our brains to be focused and imaginative. In contrast, the rise of the Internet is strengthening our ability to scan information rapidly and efficiently."

What are your thoughts? Let us know!