Exploring how technology influences young people

Most parents are technology immigrants.  Children are technology natives.

These phrases came to light when we became foster parents and were trying to help our foster son navigate his way through technology.

He had come to us at the age of 12 and we were swithering whether we should give him a mobile phone.

In his first week of high school, all the students were told to “take out your phones and photograph your homework”.  Needless to say, it was only one other child and my foster son who were left scribbling down the homework as the bell rang for the next class.

Time has moved on and each young person now has a school iPad so (thankfully) that situation won’t happen again.  But is technology a friend or foe for our child’s development?

Emotional attachment to the internet

Back in 2012, a study involving 1,000 children revealed some surprising insights:

  • 49% of British kids under 12 would be sad without internet access.
  • 1 in 5 would feel lonely without it.

Here are some other eye-opening results:

  • 70% of teenagers chat on Facebook.
  • Two-year-olds often dominate the family iPad.
  • Children perform more daily tasks online than adults.

(source: British Children Feel Sad without the Internet – The Telegraph’)

Technology now significantly influences how children interact, communicate, and form friendships. While I enjoy using technology, I balance it with other (non-tech) activities. This article made me uneasy about children’s emotional dependencey upon the internet.

Reflecting on Our Own Internet Use

Would I be upset without technology? Not really. It would be both challenging and liberating. But the strong emotional attachment kids have to the internet and technology raises important questions: How often do they use it? How does it affect their relationships with family, friends, and the world? Where does their emotional energy go?

The Real World vs. The Digital World

When kids spend extended periods in front of screens, they connect mainly with the digital world. This could hinder their emotional connections with real people, limiting them to interactions through screens.  The pros are that children can widen their friends circle using technology, yet in this research, The Pew Research Centre found 26% of interviewed young people confirm they have fallen out with a friend due to something that has happened online.

Technology as a Lifeline During Lockdowns

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, technology played a crucial role in keeping people connected. With social distancing measures in place, the internet became a lifeline for maintaining relationships, working from home, and accessing education. Video calls, social media, and online communities helped bridge the gap created by physical separation, highlighting the internet’s essential role in our lives.

However, this increased reliance on technology also underscored the lack of human connection with other children that influenced the mental and emotional development of young people.

“My five year old daughter is an only child and she has been badly affected by lack of socialising with other children since lockdown. She is far less cheerful and motivated than she was before this isolation. She especially looks for video games with other children to watch or pretend, which she used not to do. Her sleep has also become disturbed.”

Save the Children Report

Balancing Screen Time and Real-Life Interactions

As adults, it’s easy to get lost in the internet too. My husband and I both work from home, and we sometimes message each other about simple, home-life things. But we do embrace other forms of communication – connecting in person during meals and dog walks. It’s all about balance.

Connecting Through Everyday Life

Connecting with kids through everyday life is essential. We can talk at dinner, sharing the highs and lows of our day; creating meaningful discussions around the table.

We can also choose to walk instead of drive, exploring nature together and engaging kids in observing and describing their surroundings (or if we do have to drive most days, then take some time out of the schedule to go into a place where there is grass, trees, waves, birds singing – eg nature).

It feels easier to let everyone sit on their phones around the dinner table, and sometimes our discussions do lead one of us to look up a fact (online) in order to prove an argument!

But ideally you could make an agreement with the family of ‘no phones at the table’ (including the adults) – otherwise how will young people develop the non-digital art of communication skills if we don’t model this through our behaviour?

Simple Moments for Deep Connections

If you are driving somewhere, use this time to listen and ask them about their lives.  Ask them to put phones away as you are happy to spend time with them – this can bring interesting conversations and discoveries you would never have realised otherwise.

Simple meditation can foster deep connections too. We can use technology to help us stay connected (ironic I know).

I find that young people don’t always want to practice mindful skills directly with me, and prefer to receive a recording of a meditation I created for them – this works well!

Or if you don’t want to use tech like this, then listen (together) to a mindful practice and then discuss how it made you feel – what you liked (or not) about the practice.  These moments are powerful opportunities to reset their energy (and yours).

The Importance of Heartfelt Interactions

Taking a few moments each day to connect with our children meaningfully ensures they won’t feel sad if the internet disappears. These small, heartfelt interactions help them understand that real-world connections matter too.

Learn how to share meditation with your children

Meditation recordings for adults & children  

Course for parents/carers  



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