Educating 21st Century Children

Emotional Well-being in the Digital Age

image of Educating 21st Century Children

What is the nature of childhood today? On a number of measures, modern children’s lives have clearly improved thanks to better public safety and support for their physical and mental health. New technologies help children to learn, socialise and unwind, and older, better-educated parents are increasingly playing an active role in their children's education.

At the same time, we are more connected than ever before, and many children have access to tablets and smartphones before they learn to walk and talk. Twenty-first century children are more likely to be only children, increasingly pushed to do more by “helicopter parents” who hover over their children to protect them from potential harm. In addition to limitless online opportunities, the omnipresent nature of the digital world brings new risks, like cyber-bullying, that follow children from the schoolyard into their homes.

This report examines modern childhood, looking specifically at the intersection between emotional well-being and new technologies. It explores how parenting and friendships have changed in the digital age. It examines children as digital citizens, and how best to take advantage of online opportunities while minimising the risks. The volume ends with a look at how to foster digital literacy and resilience, highlighting the role of partnerships, policy and protection.



Online and offline relationships

Youth social circles used to be restricted to friends met in the neighbourhood, at school or through extracurricular activities. The rise of the Internet has made geographical proximity and social similarity less crucial in making friends, and digital means have facilitated youth broadening their social circles. However, the proliferation of online relationship formation has led to concerns that they replace "higher quality” offline relationships. On the other hand, online means can expand and diversify children’s friendship networks and can empower disadvantaged groups by enhancing weak ties. Online ties supplement, rather than replace, face-to-face connection, and online communication can reinforce offline friendships. Furthermore, whether a friendship forms online or offline is less important than if these newly formed friendships move to communication modalities such as telephone and face-to-face contact with richer verbal and non-verbal cues.


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