By: Mat Duerden
This is the digital generation. Technology usage among adolescents is higher than ever across multiple mediums. Add to this the speed at which many youth adopt new technologies, and parents can be left feeling out of touch. Parents need to be aware of technology trends and how technology affects their children. While technology comes with many negative pitfalls such as online bullying, technology addiction, and loss of privacy, positive benefits also exist. Increased social capital, outlets for creativity, and even civic engagement are some of the benefits ascribed to adolescent technology usage. Parents who are aware of the good and bad of technology use and who work with their children to develop positive approaches to technology use can help encourage healthy development.
- Adolescent use of technology is at record levels. Youth spend about 7.5 hours of media per day. Seventy-five percent of teenagers own a cell phone, and of those cell phone users one-third send more than 300 text messages per day. Ninety-three percent of adolescents regularly use the Internet, and of this group 73 percent use social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Technology use at these levels often means less time for other activities.
- Technology use, especially overuse, can produce negative outcomes. About 8 percent of teenage video game players show addictive behaviors similar to pathological gamblers. Heavy technology use has been linked to lower academic performance and measures of life satisfaction. The Internet can expose youth to pornography, bullying, and unwanted sexual advances.
- Technology also has the ability to facilitate positive development. Some research suggests that the Internet can provide youth a context to develop their identities and become civically engaged. For example, some researchers have proposed that various societal changes such as increased fears of stranger danger and lack of walkable communities have decreased teenagers’ ability to access community social spaces, but that the Internet may mitigate this loss by providing entry into virtual community spaces such as Facebook and chat rooms.
- Girls and boys use technology differently. Girls tend to use technology primarily for communication; boys most often use technology for recreation and entertainment.
- Youth may not be as technologically skilled as many might think. While many teenagers may appear technologically adept, often their knowledge base does not extend beyond texting and social media sites. Parents need to make sure their children understand potential online dangers and know how to avoid them. Even simple steps, such as educating children about what types of personal information should not be shared on the Internet, can help keep them safe.
- Parents can have an impact on how their children use technology. Children spend less time with technology when their parents intentionally structure media use in the home. This includes not allowing TVs in children’s bedrooms or turning the TV off during mealtimes.
Implications for Parents
Because technology plays an enormous role in youths’ lives, parents must become informed and act intentionally. Parents should educate their children to become savvy Internet users and provide them opportunities to use technology for positive development.
www.edutopia.org – “An in-depth and interactive resource, Edutopia.org offers practical, hands-on advice, real-world examples, lively contributions from practitioners, and invaluable tips and tools.”
www.netsmartz.org – “NetSmartz provides on- and offline learning activities for parents to facilitate discussions with their children and teens about Internet safety.”
About the Author
Mat Duerden is an assistant professor – Extension specialist at Texas A&M University. He also serves as the Youth Development Initiative Coordinator.
Download a printer-friendly version of this publication: Parent Fact Sheet: Youth and Technology
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