Technology and the internet are massively important aspects of living in the 21st century. The growth of technology and the prominence of the internet have provided millions with convenience, accessible research, and of course, the occasional cute cat compilation video on YouTube. Overall, the two open doors for international connection and interaction across a wide variety of platforms. Though they are both equally unstoppable forces due to their constant growth and massive significance, there are a multitude of problems that can stem from excess use of the two. These issues present themselves most prominently in the youngest members of society-children and teens. While the internet can be a pleasurable experience for many, the underlying dangers, such as a lack of privacy or an unhealthy influence on behavior, are increasing as kids and teens spend more time attached to their devices. These problems are only increasing with the rise of new tech and the internet, which can possibly lead to unhealthy lifestyles that are rooted in early usage of either of the two. Although social media platforms and the benefits of devices are ever-growing, their impact on children and teens could translate into long-lasting issues.
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In recent years, one may have noticed the sudden spike of children and teens with handheld devices readily available to them. It seems that at most restaurants, there is at least one table with a small child whose eyes are glued to the screen of a handheld device. Teens fall victim to the screen as well when posting and liking photos on social media and texting or direct messaging throughout their days. Though not all experience screen addiction, most children and teens spend 75% [of their time] with their eyes fixed on a screen according to the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda, (Hampton). An addiction to the screen can lead to increased levels of aggression in children. In fact, a clinical and developmental psychologist says kids text all sorts of things that you would never in a million years contemplate saying to anyone’s face, (Child Mind Institute). While they may understand that this behavior is unacceptable when physically interacting with others, there is no face-to-face relationship when connecting with others through messaging, making it much easier to lose a sense of who they are and leading to these harsh comments.
This apathy might have developed as a result lack of direct communication and interaction that is rooted in the detachment from society at an early stage of life. Similarly, most kids feel the urge to share photos and videos of those around them as a way to share their interests with the world. While, in the moment it may seem like an innocent post, harassment can stem from something as simple as a short video. It can lead to the dangers of cyberbullying, and can quickly spread if it is publicly shared. Social media isn’t always a bad thing, and can help people share the things they are excited about with others, but if used excessively, it can cause a disconnect between a person’s understanding of their relationships with others. While it can be assumed that most teens understand how to carry out healthy physical relationships with others, smaller children may experience trouble in learning social cues as a result of increased screen-time.
Being available in a physical relationship with others develops a person’s understanding of basic social cues- verbal and non-verbal hints that guide social interactions. As children learn to develop their relationships with others, such as classmates or friends, their expertise in these areas grows. However, without a face-to-face interaction, at the dinner table for example, these cues are unable to develop properly, which can throw off the way children learn to make relationships as they grow up (Hampton). Without these personal connections, children can fall behind in understanding fundamental social skills including the ability to make friends, controlling emotions, following verbal directions, and learning to develop a sense of empathy for others (Ortiz). Because social interaction is a integral skill and common aspect of everyday life, it is majorly important that children learn how to carry out personal relationships and grasp social cues at an early stage of life. If these skills don’t develop as the child gets older, carrying out the simplest of interactions can become stressful and anxiety-producing.
Romantic relationships are a significant part in the lives of happy, healthy adults and even those relationships have evolved amongst this technological takeover. Ever since the introduction of Match.com, in 1995, the dating game has never been the same. Those who had trouble meeting people in real life found it more efficient to let an algorithm find people for them. These dating sites initially gained popularity within the gay community and by 2010, nearly 70% of same-sex relationships were starting online (The Economist). Slowly, dating sites have reached people of all sexualities, and have continuously been dominating the dating scene. Today dating sites and apps account for about a sixth of the first meetings that lead to marriage, and with these positive trends, there would be no surprise if this number doubled in the near future (The Economist).
While dating sites are a more convenient and quick way of finding love, there can never be a guarantee of the quality of these personalities considering the quantity at which the consumer is encountering them. The way people present themselves online is never 100% true. Personalities may be enhanced, pictures can be edited and expectations can be set too high. Without the physical interaction of meeting someone for the first time, there will always be the uncertainty of a person’s character and intentions. In general, when using dating sites, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and never be too open with personal information that could put someone in danger. Additionally, the millions of people that someone is swiping through on these dating apps start to become artificial and less human because of how these sites are designed. It becomes an issue when it lead[s] individuals to commoditize potential partners and can reduce their willingness to commit to any one person (Association for Psychological Science). This is where the disconnect of personal interaction becomes most evident. These profiles of potential suitors become materialized and it leads to the objectification of the people behind the screens. When people become objects to another person, their perception of love becomes distorted and their emotions can begin to deteriorate. Dating becomes a game with no regards to a person’s mental and emotional well-being and it is ultimately unhealthy to the consumer.
Coupled with a general lack of relationships and social interaction, surplus use of technology can possibly lead to negative impacts on mental health. A majority of social media platforms, such as Twitter, advocate a space where one has the power to create and share ideas and information. Without borders, while providing free and global conversation, among thousands of users (Twitter Investor Relations). However, interaction through social media is not enough to satisfy the biological cravings that a human has for personal relationships. This means that, despite the amount of support one may find on the internet, they can still express general feelings of sadness, loneliness and overall symptoms of depression.
For example, a young girl could be Instagram or Twitter Famous, having hundreds upon thousands of followers across all of her social media platforms. Still, this young girl may experience general feelings of isolation despite her thousands of supporters. But why does this happen? While she may have a consistent group of people liking and commenting on her posts as well as direct messaging her through her given social media apps, there is no real face-to-face interaction. It would then make sense why this young girl feels lonely despite having thousands of fans; she does not have real relationships with these people, which can lead her to feel like she doesn’t truly have friends or people who support her, even though her follower count may be significantly large.
A common trend among most teens with multiple social media accounts is a post-everything addiction. From the meal they ate in the morning to who they hung out with in school, or even the outfit they’re wearing to class, teenagers tend to almost always have something to post up on their pages. However, the things that teens share with the world are not always as simple as an outfit-of-the-day post. In a study conducted by Pew Research Center, it was found that 76% of older teens share the name of the school they attend, 23% will share their phone number, and 64% of teens with Twitter will keep their accounts open to the public (Pew Research Center). These trends are commonly seen as a way to be social; however, they increase the risk of violations of privacy.
Some teens may find themselves trying to ingrain a nothing bad could happen to me mentality into their brains when they share their personal data. While it may be true that not everyone is subject to violations of privacy online, their information is open to hundreds upon thousands of people across the world using the same social media applications. The internet makes it extremely easy for predators to reach kids by pretending to be someone they’re not through the use of another person’s photos, name and information- a situation better known as catfishing. When acting as another person, the predator understands ways to entice victims simply through direct messaging and texting. In some cases, teens are persuaded enough by these performances to willingly meet up with these predators. A kid might be smart enough to recognize a catfish when they see one, but if their information is still open to the public, such as their location, it would still be extremely easy for someone with bad intentions to track down their target at all times.
The potential dangers presented through the internet on children and teens can be increasingly concerning for parents. In a world where the importance of the internet and technology are constantly increasing, the inclination to use and be a part of social media may be a problem for parents as, managing the use of media in [a family] is one of the big challenges of 21st century parenting, (Child Mind Institute). While some apps, such as YouTube, have kid modes that are aimed towards filtering content for smaller children, parents now have to worry about the risk of their child having easy access to inappropriate content as well as protecting their children from online predators. As the number of children with social media accounts increases, concerns of parents increases as well due to an influx of unrealistic beauty standards that stem from lifestyle models, dietary restriction lollipops, and skinny teas. Acceptance and approval through a system of likes, retweets, and fame is massively important for some kids on these social platforms.
Talent, attractiveness, humor and style are measured through the number of people interacting with their posts. Because of an excessive amount of time spent on the internet, teens can commonly depend on their online presence as a model for who they ideally should be in their everyday lives. Trends are constantly evolving, and so it seems, there’s a new fad on the rise almost every week across the spectrum of social media apps. Teens may discover they don’t lead the same lives as many on the internet and could develop a decreased sense of self-worth. A study conducted by Pennsylvania State University found that teenagers frequently removed posts from their pages that received few likes and comments, which suggests that [they] try to make themselves look good by only keeping up [their] popular posts (Stevens). Appearance is majorly important for teens posting on the internet because they want to fit in with the wave of new trends and lifestyles that are constantly being renewed. The tendency to post images that display false images of oneself might directly be a result of the need for popularity by keeping up with the newest fads.
Technology has both its ups and downs, but not all of what it has to offer is dangerous to younger generations. Although many could argue that teenagers are perpetually lethargic by nature, technology and the internet can provide an open area for teens to take action, share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions, and express themselves however they please. Thousands of users with accounts across several platforms have the freedom and ability to share the things they’re passionate about ranging from several different areas of interest. The internet can also act as a safe space where people can join together and build up a community. Some teenagers face the challenges and struggles of making friends, while others, such as those in the LGBTQ community, live in places that refuse to accept them for who they are (Simeon). It isn’t always a direct fix to their problems, but the internet can provide a place for those who feel isolated and misunderstood with a sense of belonging as they share their stories, thoughts, and struggles with others going through the same things across the globe.
Sites such as It Gets Better, a website that provides support services for LQBTQ teens in different communities, and The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to [LGBTQ] youth, offer services to LGBTQ youth who may be in need of a safe space to truly be themselves (The Trevor Project). Likewise, there are several internet services that are available for people who want to get their name out into the world. Squarespace, for example, is a website building program that allows one to build an online presence through design and tracking of their accomplishments on their own personal website. Services such as these allow a person to display their growth and development, while keeping their achievements organized in a professionally curated website. In doing this, one could get ahead on creating opportunities for themselves, allowing for potential employers or college admissions officers to get a feel for a particular individual.
As the impact of technology changes, it finds its way into workplaces and classrooms. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many school environments allow iPads, laptops and Smart Board Technologies in the work area. Handheld devices such as cell phones may not particularly be appropriate in a classroom setting, but it’s important to consider that students are already interested and engaged in using technology (Savvidis). This interest creates a smoother integration of such technologies being used in the classroom in order to make learning more interesting, interactive and effective for the student.
When something that kids can relate to is placed in their learning environment, participation is expected to increase due to more enthusiasm to use such technologies in a classroom setting. Technology can present newer and more engaging methods of learning for students because of their peaked interest. Additionally, the internet can allocate students with the proper information they need to complete their school work because of its incredible amount of academic resources that range from videos to full and in-depth lessons and study resources on sites such as Khan Academy. Furthermore, collaboration is encouraged due to the advantages and swiftness of emailing and apps such as Google Documents that have share features that allow collaboration between a group of people on one shared document. All the features of having classroom technologies can guide the student in developing useful skills that are needed in life such as critical thinking, developing different forms of communication and improving motivation and productivity (Savvidis).
As the internet and technology continue to grow, their effects in people’s lives become increasingly extensive. Modern technologies are improving exponentially as they find their way into just about every aspect of living. Although much of what these new developments have to offer can make life simpler, an unreasonable amount of dependence and use of technology can cause people to manifest bad habits, such as aggression and general lack of interest, and can lead to a developmental lag when it comes to understanding social cues and interpersonal relationships. As technology grows and develops, the kids who find themselves using it frequently may face the challenge of jeopardizing their own personal development if they go through life with their eyes constantly glued to a screen.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Constant and Early Exposure to Technology and The Internet . (2020, Mar 16).
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