Is Social Media Killing Our Kids’ Creativity?

Kids on calls

A recent survey revealed that one in 10 children have a mobile phone before the age of 5. Five years old!

The reasons behind this are perhaps obvious, but what does this early exposure to digital do to a developing imagination?

In the same way as TV and video games were early babysitters, the smartphone is the virtual child minder of the moment. Clinical Psychologist Dr. Laura Markham observes, “Parents often respond to kids’ boredom by providing structured activities or technological entertainment. But unstructured time challenges kids to engage with themselves and the world, to imagine and invent and create…  Even more important, children need empty time to explore their inner and outer worlds, which is the beginning of creativity.”

As someone who has two smartphones, three Twitter accounts, four Facebook pages and the rest (Pinterest, YouTube, Google+, blogs and websites) I'm a repeat offender.

I find myself enjoying very little of what I call ‘dead time’ or empty time. Dead time, a state perhaps more familiar to my parents’ generation, is in essence the time you have between appointments, on your way somewhere, or relaxing at home.

It’s time where you can let your mind wander.

Far from being ‘dead’, then, it is actually quite refreshing and, as with children, is often the point at which adults are at their most creative. When my life isn't dominated by social, I suffer from fear of missing out.

It’s no coincidence that there are times when I cannot get to sleep because ideas keep popping into my head – this is the only time I’m away from social. My brain keeps me awake with reminders to do X or try Y to achieve an outcome that has eluded me.

So, my question is this: if I am already feeling the effects of a lack of ‘dead time’, what will this constant barrage of digital mean for those 5 year olds who will likely never know a world without ‘3 screening’, RT-ing, and success based on the number of likes you’ve attracted?

While I’m a huge social media fan and believe resolutely in its power to do good, I do wonder also about the cost.

Perhaps the answer is not to avoid our kids using digital, but to encourage creativity. If we’re smart, our smartphone savvy tots will grow up to become the entrepreneurs of the future and help to ensure that Britain is equipped to succeed in the global digital marketplace.

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Photo (cc) Flavio Ronco.