Can teenagers process all that technology offers?

Four teenage girls sit on a park bench together, looking at the screens of their smartphones

writer icon Paige Whitehead     Gary Cassel   |   Tech     🕐 15. Oct. 2018

The world is now connected through technology. Nearly 50% of children aged 6-13 in Europe and the U.S. have a smartphone. Internet reaches to almost every corner of the world.

Media, such as pictures, videos, documents, and opinions, flows freely from anyone with access. The information presented is not always accurate. With so much to process, are teens able to comprehend all that they see?

Misinformation at your fingertips
TVs, tablets, computers, and phones feature prominently on the list of children’s toys today. As soon as infants can hold one, a smartphone may be deployed as a babysitter, and many grandparents call on their grandchildren for help with remote controls or other tech devices.

As children grow, so do their preferences. Social media such as Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube dominate teenagers free time. It is worth noting that each of these platforms has an age restriction of 13 and above.

Most social media platforms like the ones listed above provide more than just entertainment. News can be updated instantaneously as it happens in pictures, videos, and eyewitness statements. Personalised pages and profiles allow users to update their every thought or opinion.

Significant influence

With endless amounts of sources online, it can be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. Misinformation, or fake news, can be masked as fact and influence a wide variety of people.

Freedom of speech allows phoneys to masquerade as genuine online, touting their own opinions as facts. Those looking for serious answers may be led down an entirely different path.

With the entire internet as a starting point, it can be difficult to shut down misinformation. This is particularly true in the case of cleverly crafted false news sites. When adults struggle to find the truth, can we expect anything more from our children?

Parental control
In primary and secondary school, students learn the basics of the core studies. Most teenagers are still learning how to think critically and question what they are taught. Social media, a source of entertainment, occupies two-thirds of teens’ online use.

Is it safe to assume that teenagers are fact checking everything they see online websites they are using for entertainment?

The technological divide between children and their parents adds another potential complication to the rise of misinformation. Born into a world of ever-growing technology, the younger generations are naturally more adapted to mastering the latest technology. As such, it is possible for them to keep their online adventures secret from even the most well-intentioned parents.

Checking up on children

Parents used to be able to look under the bed for inappropriate reading material, or merely snoop through a diary or some text messages to get answers on what their child was up to. They could turn off unwanted TV shows or check the ratings of films to make sure content was age-appropriate.

These days, with so many avenues of communication, there is only so much that parents can do to make sure their children are safe online. The vastness of the internet and the limits of parental control may mean that teenagers are on their own in the search for answers and discovering things they might not be ready for.

Too much, too soon?
The internet and its resources are not entirely bad. Teens growing up in diversity may find support systems online. Those living in oppression can rally together. Stories that need to be told can be instantly dispersed throughout the world, and fundraisers can change peoples’ lives.

With all the good the internet has to offer, so must it offer the bad. Now more than ever, young children are exposed to pornography on the internet. Teens being curious about sex is nothing new, but the ways in which they can satisfy that curiosity are growing. Instead of looking at a nude magazine, young boys are now exposed to graphic pornography that can shape the way they perceive sex and women in general.

In addition to becoming sexualised, teen girls face body image and self-esteem issues that can arise from social media. Social media provides a constant source of what society deems are beautiful women. Social media sites that focus on pictures can lead to negative self-image among women.

The pressure becomes too much

A study by the Association for Psychological Science shows a strong correlation between adolescent suicides and social media. Are teenagers able to process all that they are exposed to online? Or is the exposure simply too great that they cannot filter out the real from the fake?

There is still much to learn about teens’ relationship with the internet. Whether it holds positive or negative effects, the internet is occupying much of their minds and their time.

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