Sunday 14 March 2021

Book Review: Born Digital by Robert Wigley

There is a growing generation of adults who have grown up in the digital age, not knowing a life without almost immediate access to a digital connected world. Most adults and children either carry or have access to connected computers, whether they be smartphones, tablets, games consoles, or good old-fashioned PCs, computers have become an essential human tool. Even toddlers seem to have an inherent ability to pick up and use tablet devices to play and learn. While the digital age has brought countless benefits for society, what of the trade-offs in our sleepwalk towards a lifetime dependency on digital technology?

In his book ‘Born Digital’, Bob Wigley shines a light on the darker side of humanity’s relationship with digital technology, pulling out and expanding on the serious issues which are all too often underplayed or brushed aside by a technology distracted and addicted world. Throughout Born Digital Bob cites a series of sobering statistics which brings a reality check in his exploration of the various psychological issues caused by society’s new devotion to digital technology. Indeed, reading Born Digital is a thought-provoking experience, which makes you question whether tech giants, governments, schools, and even yourself as a parent, are doing enough to protect and educate children born into the digital age.  
Born Digital by Robert Wigley is available at Amazon in Hardback, as a Kindle eBook, and as an Audiobook
Born Digital examines the most digital distracted generation of all, ‘Generation Z’, namely anyone born between the late 1990s and early 2010s. Generation Z has grown up psychologically hardwired with digital technology, their smartphones are an extension of themselves, enabling a relentless habit of synchronising their real-world and digital lives with endless social media and digital communications. Generation Z does not regard themselves as a digital addicted and distracted generation, their digital way of life is their normal, so we should not expect them to have epiphany moments of ‘admitting to having a problem’, which is as any alcohol, drug, and gambling addiction counsellor will tell you, is the first and most important step to taper a lifestyle with a harmful dependency. The unhealthy elements of living digital are in plain sight, Born Digital explores the grim reality of harmful effects experienced by Generation Z, such as addiction, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, stunned empathy development, troubled relationships, fake news, propaganda, and even threats to democracy.

Born Digital is written as a wakeup call to the dangers and the negative outcomes which comes with all our dependency on the digital world, with the book concluding with a call to urgently reset society’s relationship with technology. Tech giants, governments, schools, parents, and each of us must be more informed about the dark side of digital tech, so we can take the necessary steps to better safeguard our society, ourselves, and the next generations from the detrimental side of our relatively newfound digital dependency. 

Firstly, I believe improving education is essential, particularly within schools, and at young ages. We cannot count on parents to educate children about digital dangers, as parents tend not to have little understanding of their children's digital realms. Secondly, there has to be stronger regulation of tech and social media giants, they must be made far more accountable for the digital services they provide, given the profound impact they have, especially on young lives. The ugly truth is social media and big tech companies are highly incentivised to culture addictive habits with their consumers to increase screen time, as more screen time means greater profit through increased advertising revenue. So it is not really in their nature to curtail addictive digital behaviours.

Some help is on the horizon in the UK, with a revolutionary Online Harms Bill, which at present appears to have sufficient teeth to force social media companies to act, by removing and limiting the spread of harmful content, or else face fines of £18m or 10% of their global turnover. If this parliamentary bill is written into UK law as it stands, the potential global turnover linked fine will certainly focus the minds of executives at social media giants like Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. The bill, which will be regulated by Ofcom, will also require platforms to follow a new code of conduct that covers their responsibilities towards protecting children that are born digital.

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