The impact of the digital age on childhood: risks and opportunities

The impact of the digital age on childhood: risks and opportunities



In the digital age we live in, children are growing up surrounded by technology from an early age, often referred to as digital natives. It’s a vibrant, interconnected context evolving at rapid speeds.


This means that they no longer explore the world solely through experimentation and interaction with their surroundings. They also have access to the vast digital network, where they can reach places they might never physically visit, connect with people they might never meet, and access information they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to obtain. However, it’s not all benefits; they are also exposed to cyber dangers lurking around every corner, from social media harassment to identity theft.


Save the Children notes in one of its recent reports that 84% of online sexual offenses target minors. Similarly, in Spain, 82,000 to 111,000 minors have experienced harassment and cyberbullying (6.9% cyberbullying and 9.3% traditional bullying). This translates to childhood cybersecurity becoming a growing concern for families and educational institutions, but cybersecurity encompasses much more than that.


This is why all stakeholders, public, private, associations, and experts, are calling for the development of cybersecurity awareness from an early age, where teachers and parents play key roles in necessary action. But what are the dangers?


Consciousness on Social Networks


A common environment for interaction among minors and teenagers, where numerous personal and others’ data are shared indiscriminately, and without filter. Names of people, locations, images, intimacies… All of this with individuals we don’t know if they are truly who they claim to be, leading to exposure, lack of protection for childhood; and necessitating digital environments and contexts where data security and privacy are guaranteed.


On the other hand, there’s the mode and frequency of use, as it brings exposure to interacting with unsafe environments, where identity is sold or even stolen, with abusive cookies, poorly protected data, and weak passwords.


Moreover, abusing the use of digital devices constitutes a time sink, which in psychological reports is equated to addiction. In terms of the chemical processes it triggers such as stimulation and rapid satisfaction through dopamine, and a dependence on recognition from others in these environments. Therefore, having a digital context where one can have information about access time and a beneficial and efficient use is crucial.


The online behavior

The use of new technologies brings with it a risk of dehumanizing human interaction. We no longer speak face to face, but through a screen, which has fostered a generation of a wide range of online behavior glossary: Ghosting, Sexting, Stalking, etc. This is why taking action to raise awareness through collaborative training that encourages interaction is essential.


But it’s not just this; many behaviors are emotionally harmful, especially in childhood, where seeking easy recognition on social networks and not finding it causes the child to face frustrations, rejection, third-party isolation, etc. Or worse, online attacks from peers, namely, the dreaded cyberbullying, which brings with it more serious consequences. And none of them attack face to face; it’s a drop that slowly damages the digital image of young people, undermining self-esteem, and leading to fatal outcomes.


Evidence of this is the alarming data from the World Health Organization, which estimates that around 200,000 young people between the ages of 14 and 28 commit suicide each year due to bullying, including cyberbullying. Therefore, having multi-format resources to discover, address, and learn about health and well-being throughout the educational community is a priority.


Online gaming

An exciting way to enjoy leisure and free time is through the countless activities offered by the digital world. Video games have been popularized since the last century and, with the internet boom, entered households, captivating people of all ages.


This gratifying leisure brings with it the same risks we foresaw when connecting anonymous individuals, causing aggressive interactions, dehumanizing interlocutors, addiction, and tainting activities that should be fulfilling. This leads to the possibility that video games can, according to clinical studies such as “The use of video games in adolescents.” A Public Health problem” (M. Rodríguez Rodríguez and FM. García Padilla, 2021) and others, cause the following risks:


  • Anxiety, depression, and obsessive behaviors.
  • Loneliness and decreased emotional intelligence.
  • Pathological use of games and abuse of gambling and violence.
  • Development of gambling addiction and video game addiction.
  • Irritability, anxiety, and obsession with video games.
  • Decreased expression of emotions and desensitization.
  • Long-term anxiety and depression symptoms.
  • Extreme mood swings and anger.
  • Mental and emotional health issues.
  • Negatively affected family and social relationships.


However, the risk is not only produced by video games but also by gambling among adolescents. There is data showing that in the Region of Murcia, one in four students aged between 14 and 18 participates in gambling or similar activities involving money, reflecting an increase in gambling addiction among adolescents.


This poses a serious risk of gambling addiction, as according to the ESTUDES survey, 10.3% of young people aged between 14 and 18 engage in online betting, while 22.7% do so in person. With much more serious consequences than those mentioned above. Therefore, teachers and families must have firsthand information and training to address these issues.


ODILO, action and prevention, starting from education


Not all is as dark and bleak as it may seem; there’s always room to work from prevention and through informed action by the collective of educational stakeholders to redirect behaviors, mitigate effects, and act when prevention comes too late.


Therefore, ODILO offers a catalog of multi-format resources where we tackle topics of cybersecurity, digital health, and general well-being. Adapting to the needs and expectations of the educational community and its rhythms; easy access and frictionless learning.


This learning must be carried out efficiently, materializing in ODILO a coordinated training plan between teachers, families, and children, resulting in all of them possessing information and instruction, fostering awareness of risks, action protocols, and prevention alternatives.


To achieve this, ODILO implements actions that generate meaningful learning in individuals through learning situations useful in everyday life, through active methodologies that generate and bring cybersecurity concepts closer to the public, developing digital skills easy to apply in daily life.


Thus, in ODILO, we manage to create reference figures among teachers who serve as best practices in the fields of security and health. Turning families into guardians of the safety of the youngest and guides in adolescence. Raising awareness among all students through training and resources that promote values and the construction of responsible citizenship.