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Childhood in the digital age
Childhood in the digital age

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1.2 A moral panic?

There is evidence that most children in the UK are currently spending more time with technology than they do in school or with their families (Lauricella, Wartella and Rideout, 2015). Similarly, children as young as 2, 3 or 4 are now playing with their parents’ phones or tablet devices.

The following audio recording explores some of the implications of pervasive digital technology. Mariella Frostrup is joined by a panel of experts and commentators including Professors Tanya Byron, Lydia Plowman, Julie Johnson and Helen King, to discuss how to best raise ‘digital kids’. They ask several important questions, such as:

  • Should children under the age of two avoid any contact with technology?
  • Should pre-school-age children engage with age-appropriate social networking sites as a form of ‘training’?
  • Are there any benefits associated with young children’s early exposure to technology?
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Figure 3
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Activity 2

You will notice that in this clip Tanya Byron refers to ‘moral panic’. This was a term suggested by the sociologist Stanley Cohen in 1972, suggesting that panics occur when a particular issue is seen as a threat to conventional social norms. A common moral panic is that technology is promoting ‘social isolation, lack of social skills and obesity’ (Palmer, 2007).

Do you agree or disagree with this suggestion? Why?

Write a paragraph in your notes to clarify and explain your views.