Key Concepts Of Childhood Through The Prism Of Commercialism And Effects Of Technology On Children

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The objective of this essay is to deliberate the key concepts of childhood through relevant and viable themes of commercialism and the use of technology in childhood nowadays and to discover its effects on the existing discourses of childhood. Additionally, this essay will also delve into how the present concept of childhood influences childhood in the future. The way society perceive and understand the true definition of children and childhood is ultimately important, this is because their views and actions can affect the way they treat the children. Morrow (2011), discussed the meaning of childhood in her article starting with the meaning of child which is defined as a very young person, who is a son or a daughter. Thus, concluded that childhood is relational, meaning that childhood is a relationship connection between both adults and children through family ties. Other definitions include that childhood is the state of being a child or the time of being a child. Being a child, childish or childlike is portrayed as being silly or trifling and is defined as innocent and docile she added (Morrow, 2011).

In an article written by Roz Evans for International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) mentioned childhood as a universal biologically and psychologically determined phase of human development. Evans (2012) explained that since research of children’s cognitive and social development were majorly conducted in Europe and the United States, thus making the countries as the normative standard to measure and compare the experience of children’s childhood across the globe. In example, the notion of childhood prevalence during the industrial revolution of Europe in 1980s considered childhood to be a time of vulnerability, innocence and development in which adult protection and care for the children is vital because of children’s physical and emotional immaturity. Children should receive proper education in school instead of being forced into adults’ sphere of work, sex and politics which are not appropriate and potentially damaging to the children. This concept of childhood has been treated as natural and universal even though it belongs to a certain historical and cultural juncture (Evans, 2012).

UNICEF on their official website defined childhood as the moment for children to gain education in school at the same time being able to play and grow strong and confident with the love and support from the child’s family and supportive society. Childhood is a valuable phase for children to grow up free from fear, violence, abuse and exploitation. Essentially, childhood does not only mean the transition phase between birth and adulthood, it refers to the condition and state of the child’s life also the quality of the child’s life through his or her childhood (UNICEF, 2005).

Presently there are four eminent construct of childhood, that is Tabula Rasa, Puritan, Romantic Child and Right-based. According to Kehily (2004), these constructs had been established since the mid 1700s centuries but has proven to be relevant and timely in the current 21st century. First, the Romantic Child discourse is the work of a French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau which claimed that children personify the embodiment of innocence, purity and natural goodness that is only contaminated by the meddling of corrupted outside world (Kehily, 2004). Rousseau also believed that children is closer to God, nature and all the good things spiritually thus children’s innocence and purity should be well protected and respected by the adults so that they can express themselves in a more free and creative manner (Kehily, 2004). Cunningham (2006) stated that the Romantic Child era was the golden age of childhood, yet during the industrialised Victorian era, he concluded that the hard condition of life of the children at that time did not do the children any justice.

The children then were forced to skipped their childhood phase and enter adulthood, sadly the idea of a romantic childhood dream remained as just a dream for many of the children (Cunningham, 2006). Next is the Tabula rasa discourse who streams from the idea of another philosopher, John Locke whom believed that children were born with minds a blank as the slates yet having natural inclinations that includes personalities, likes and dislikes. Locke believed that children can be mould into rational human beings with guidance and training by the adults. This discourse suggested that the child is in the stage of becoming into an adult, hence certain educational need to be implemented to the adults-to-be. Adults are responsible to provide the children with relevant education and control in order for the children to develop into a mature, rational and responsible human beings (Montgomery, 2003). Thirdly, the Puritan discourse is an utter contrast of Romantic Child and Tabula Rasa idea. The Puritans exaggerate belief that children were born as evil and wicked. Children as the product of Adam’s sin and according to this belief, any acts of frivolity or play by the children were believed to be taken place in the devil’s workshop (Chudacoff, 2007).

The last discourse is the rights-based, it started off when the global leaders pronounced in1989 that the children need an exclusive convention only for them because those below the age of 18 particularly require special attention and supervision more than adults need. Global leaders desired to assure that the world acknowledged that children possess human rights as well. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), is the first worldwide instrument lawfully bind to combine various human rights including civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. CRC’s provisions and principles open the way for UNICEF to advocate and support the protection of children’s rights by helping children in meeting their basic needs and further extending their chances of achieving their highest potential (Kehily, 2004). These four discourses seemingly do not end up on the same page in terms of how childhood should be perceived, children were portrayed as angelic and devilish at the same time, pure blank slates yet insists on rights as an adult. This essay will hence evaluate the cohesive application of discourses to children and childhood in the present time in terms of the use of technology and commercialism.

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Compared to the past generations, children living in the 21st century are ardent users of the Technology. The rise of the use of technology in children has led to much attention as how technology affects children’s brains and their socio-emotional, cognitive and physical development (Gottschalk, 2019). Research statistic result from the United States stated that children between the age of 8 to 18 years old spend about seven and a half hours per day indulging themselves in media content on average (Rideout et al., 2010). Similarly, in some European countries, indicates that children are even going online using multiple devices (Mascheroni and Cuman, 2014). This might be due to phenomenon of experience-dependent change or also known as the susceptibility of children developing brain for “plasticity”. A human brain substantially change in response to experiences they gone through and childhood is proven to be time of high plasticity (Bavelier, Green and Dye, 2010). Hebb (1949) quoted that “Neurons that fire together, wire together”, therefore, suggesting that the brain is plastic.

Supporting Hebb, Barkovich (1998), mentioned that plasticity is prominent specifically in the early years of human life and research pointed that expeditious development and considerable plasticity occurs on the brain of new-borns through the first few tears of life. Certain domain of the human brain is more plastic than other domains, for example the hippocampus in which learning and memory took place (Bliss and Schoepfer, 2004; Pastalkova et al., 2006). Childhood is the phase where fast development and maturation occurs. According to Centre on the Developing Child (2009), a child’s brain can create over 1 million new connections per second during the first 3 years of life, in which is important in developing the diverse functions of the brain such as hearing, language and cognition. This is aligned to the Tabula Rasa discourse in which Locke claimed that a child was born in a blank state and adults should shape children with education for them to grow into rational human beings.

Next is the impacts of technology through the viewing of television by the children in terms of their cognition and well-being. Research has connected that viewing televisions for a long amount of time during childhood might cause problems in the child’s adolescent phase (Landhuis et al., 2007) and some insinuated there might be prudent harmful effects on children watching television before the age of three on cognitive outcomes later in childhood (Zimmerman and Christakis, 2005). A study suggested that one extra hour of watching television at age 1 might result into the increase of 28 percent of the possibility of the child having attentional problems at the age of 7 years old, very much alike impact sizes for the amount of television watched at the age of 3 years old on similar problem later in childhood (Christakis et al., 2004).

However, some literature begs to differ and according to them, watching television might lean more to positive outcomes. This can be achieved through educational programming as children will be educated on literacy, mathematics, science skills, problem solving and prosocial behaviour (Evans Schmidt and Anderson, 2009). This supports the discourse of rights-based as children’s have the right to be educated and to seek knowledge.

Other than that, the impacts of video games on the brain and executive functions of the children has arouse the public concerns. Recently, “Internet Gaming Disorder” were added in the Appendix of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental Disorders –V as gaming disorder. Gaming have proven to be affecting brains domain such as those responsible for reward, impulse control and sensorimotor co-ordination (Weinstein and Lejoyeux, 2015). In addition, links were found that gaming were associated with dopaminergic or reward pathways which is generally correlate with substance addictions (Kuss and Griffiths, 2012). Nevertheless, the research in this region does not support the idea of internet or gaming addiction linked to substance addictions (Weinstein and Lejoyeux, 2015). On the side note, almost majority of the research on gaming focuses more on the negative side effects of gaming instead of positive outcomes thus making majority of the research results prone to biasness (Granic, Lobel and Engels, 2013). Other evidence found that playing active video games is also associate to better working memory as well as better spatial skills (Uttal et al., 2013).

Due to children’s limited abilities to self-regulate and susceptibility to peer pressure, children are at risk as they navigate and engage in social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and such. According to Undiyaundeye (2014), some of the threat that children are most likely to be expose through social media is cyberbullying and online harassment, sexting, Facebook depression, defective social relationship and distorted senescence of reality. To start with, cyberbullying occurs when a person use digital media to communicate false, embarrassing or hostile information about a person or even spread malicious rumors on the person they intent to bully.

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