This opinion piece was published in the NT Suns Newspapers on June 11 2019 under the title Be wary of online allure.
Technology has introduced cyberspace to young people in a way that both helps and hinders. It offers advantages and benefits that support and assist in their studies. However, there are downsides that can have a deleterious effect on their minds and lives.
One of the major digital age drawbacks is the savage impact social media has on lives through cyber bullying. Another downside is the temptation to complete assignments through cutting, pasting and plagiarising from online sources.
One of the more sinister impacts of the online age, is its ability to disrupt and change the behaviour of users. Young people can be influenced to alter their thinking about things important to their future life. Some of these changes are little short of bizarre.
“Australian children as young as seven … are launching aggressive attacks on their parents, lying to get out of school and avoiding family holidays to play Fortnite marathons, as the video game recruits a new generation of underage players.” (Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson, Kids in video game crisis, Sunday Territorian, 26 May 2019)
The author adds “Education and neuroscience experts warn excessive and premature use of (video games) is leading to a ballooning crisis for Australian families, … now checking their children into dedicated rehabilitation centres to wean them off screens and reintegrate them into social, family and school life.” (Op.cit)
This is an issue that has been looming for some time. Experts have cautioned against children of tender years being allowed uncontrolled access to gaming applications. However it seems their advice has largely been ignored.
There are others claiming to be experts who maintain that ‘games are just games’ and do not alter the perceptions of young people about the realities of life.
If a significant number of children and adolescents are so preoccupied with gaming that nothing else matters, then addiction is a real issue. Fortnite, one of the major online games is not recommended for player under 13 years of age.
It is influencing far younger children. The article quotes neuroscience communicator Jill Sweatmen who is concerned that this particular game is attracting children who at 7 or 8 years of age are too young and mentally unprepared to handle its content. “There are short term consequences and significant long term consequences to this.” (Op cit)
Parents need to be on guard and absolutely aware of the sites their children visit and the online games that can be so absorbing. Schools play their part, but awareness, education and the shaping of young attitudes has to start in the home. This issue cannot be ignored.