In a recent lecture on environmental history, my lecturer told our group that the average British prisoner now spends more time outside than the average primary school child. This statement truly shocked me. As a nation we typically associate primary school with a time of discovery and freedom without the constraints or pressures of adolescence or adulthood, yet, this statement now shows that those who are locked up in prison experience the liberty of nature more than children under 11 years old do.
In my experience of primary school many years ago, most of my memories are associated with the outdoors, whether that be inventing games outside at playtime, or going to the park after school. Now this doesn’t seem to be the case. Of course, I am not implying that children of a primary school age are encouraged less than we were to go outside, but perhaps there is less enthusiasm at the idea as a result of other sources of entertainment.
Children did not get phones until they were of the age that it was essential for their safety
The advances in modern technology, such as the creation of tablets and phones, seem to have now trickled down to children who still have to be picked up from school. The common belief when I was in primary school, was that children did not get phones until they were of the age that it was essential for their safety, as they would be walking home and needed to stay in contact with their parents. I can even say that when I was 11 years old, I had a Tesco phone (as most did) that could only call or text as it was only intended to be used for this function.
I feel extremely grateful to have grown up in what I call the ‘half generation’
Nowadays I feel that this is not the case. Some children as young as 3 years old now know how to use a tablet more efficiently than an adult, and children as young as 9 or 10 are given phones so as not to be left out or to ‘stay in contact with their friends’ that they are dropped off and picked up to see every day. It is not uncommon to see children as young as 10 walking around with the latest phone model often exceeding my own phone! When I think about things like this and what simple aspects of life children are now deprived of at such a young age, I feel extremely grateful to have grown up in what I call the ‘half generation’ (half technology, half not).
To me, this name I assigned to my age group/ generation implies how we grew up without technology, yet, now it is central to our lives as much as anyone else’s. We received all the positives of a technology-free childhood but now also receive the benefits of spending our adolescent years with it. In this way, we are a unique age group as we grew up in mostly the same way as our parents did, yet our teenage years and our experience of technology are completely different. Nowadays, children are deprived of this technology-free childhood which can be seen as a positive or negative by different people.
As a child, technology was still advancing at a relatively fast pace, but we were only exposed to a small amount of it such as computers or maybe even a Gameboy or Nintendo DS. In school we were taught how to type on a computer and sometimes play games, but this was probably as far as we were allowed or even wanted to go, and technology was not central to our lives. The one element that I think mainly defines my age group from the children in primary school/ early secondary school now is the internet and social media. Even though we had access to devices such as Nintendo’s, you could only play the game that was inserted into them and did not have access to the internet. Nowadays primary school children have access to both the internet and social media sites even without having a phone themselves. This can bring children all kinds of stresses and pressures that people my age were only exposed to when we were in our late teens and were old enough to come to terms with.
I think that children now are almost deprived of this element of innocence
Looking back on my childhood I am so grateful I lived in a world where an argument in the playground one day did not follow me home and carry onto the next, or where I was told what I was supposed to look like or act like in my most innocent and formative years. I think that children now are almost deprived of this element of innocence and discovery and many as young as 10 feel they have to look a certain way to fit in instead of just enjoying the freedom of childhood.
As a child I remember the excitement of exploring the outdoors and being amazed at things such as a small ladybird or the rings inside of a tree, yet this doesn’t seem to appeal to children as much anymore. I watched a video a couple of weeks ago that really nailed this point. It talked about how now we are part of an ‘awe-deprived’ generation in which we see so much of the world through a screen that even when we see the greatest wonders of our world we do not feel the same gratitude and appreciation as generations before us. This realization is sad but true, but I guess it shows how our world is evolving into an environment with technology at the centre which can be positive and negative but nevertheless is changing the dynamic of all stages of our lives.
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