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.



Parenting and friendships in the 21st century

Socialisation and relationships form an important part of our lives, from our earliest days through to old age. For children and youth, strong and positive relationships with families and peers are essential for well-being and healthy development. This chapter reviews the literature on the importance of positive and supportive relationships for children, taking a life course perspective on the relative roles of parents and peers at each stage of development. It then asks the question: have relationships with parents and peers changed in a digital world? What might this mean for 21st century children? The chapter provides an overview of parenting styles and what we know (and don’t know) about their impact. It takes a special look at helicopter parenting across the OECD. It concludes with a look at friendships, both traditional and virtual.


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