The Impact of Technology and Social Media on Today’s Youth
Nowadays, the internet and cutting-edge technology have been vastly adopted and integrated into the daily lives of young people. Growing preoccupation with social media affects the people’s lifestyles. Therefore, it is necessary to identify the nature of such influences especially on adolescents, their educational and physical activities, social life, and learning capabilities. The aim of this paper is to investigate the positive and negative impacts on today’s youth that social media and technology have.
The Positive Impact
Social media and technology are usually associated with positive impact, benefiting and developing young people. Technology differentiates social groups in accordance with the extent of their access to media tools, their skills, and the meanings and impacts that they attach to the digital tools. As a result, everybody is provided with the corresponding and necessary information (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011). In the last ten years, the communication environment of teenagers has changed due to better access to cellular phones and computer-mediated interaction. The use of the internet by youth pursues social purposes, namely 93 percent exchange emails, 68 percent communicate through messages, 55 percent create their profiles in social networks, 28 percent post in inline journals, and 18 percent prefer chat rooms (Mersch, 2009, p. 57).
Social networks provide young people with the opportunity to create personal and social identities, reconnect with lost friends, maintain existing relationships, and share knowledge, ideas, and opinions (Alassiri, Muda, & Ghazali, 2014). Moreover, digital media have become a fundamental source of information, providing teenagers with the most recent data and convenient and quick methods of searching. Mobile phones have granted youngsters greater independence and freedom, allowing them to communicate with their parents everywhere (Haddon, 2015). In addition, young people use cell phones to maintain social contacts and to discuss personal issues when needed. Television often sets positive role models that help teenagers to make appropriate lifestyle choices (Mesch, 2009).
Social media serves as a supportive environment to gain new experiences in romance, social status, and friendship. Marginalized teens can easily find support online that they lack in their traditional surrounding. Overall, teenagers tend to use the internet to seek advice during critical period of their development. Furthermore, young people use online searches to gather information regarding health issues and other topics that are inconvenient to discuss with others (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011).
The development of information and communication technologies has improved access to information, changed methods of communication, and provided disadvantaged groups with communication channels. Modern technologies entail social impact as they increase the speed at which information and ideas are transmitted and demonstrate efficiency due to a cost effective way of conveying the data. Thus, these conditions increase global adoption of technology (Alassiri, Muda, & Ghazali, 2014).
According to Mesch (2009), technology is an innovative force that has a profound influence on youth. Young people can use digital spaces for social interaction, media production, as well as media consumption. In this relation, new terms, including “net-generation,” the “millennium generation,” and “digital natives,” have been created to identify the peculiarities of the new generation that matures during the expansion of the internet and technology (Mesch, 2009, p. 50).
Mesch (2009) describes the lives of youth as being determined by media privatization in a media-rich environment. As a result, in the variety of digital means, people tend to acquire more than one technological item. Often, adolescents accumulate media tools in their bedrooms, creating a “bedroom culture that facilities their media consumption” without being restricted by parental supervision (Mesch, 2009, p. 51). As a result, such immersion into the technology changes the behavioral patterns, values and attitudes that have become different in comparison with the previous generations. For example, digital natives are characterized as optimistic and team-oriented people who have a flair for working with technology. They process information more quickly and efficiently and demonstrate skills and values that are necessary for experimentation and support experiential learning. However, they are excessively dependent on information technologies if they need to find particular information or communicate with others (Alassiri, Muda, & Ghazali, 2014; Mesch, 2009).
Net-generation has become multimedia producers and co-creators of the internet content due to their ability to develop creative multimedia presentations and reach large and global audiences. Technology can also generate new patterns and ways of communication and motivation. Moreover, many commercial companies own social networking sites, weblogs, videos, and photos that target young people and shape their consumption behaviors (Mesch, 2009).
The Negative Effect
Being an integral part of the daily life, the Internet and technology pose a number of risks on young generation. The negative effect of the media depends on the type of technology and the psychological state of the teenagers. Although technology can increase social activity and abilities, if used without discretion, it may lead to dependence on technology for contentment and loss of interactive capabilities. Moreover, teenagers can become addicted to the Internet and social networks, which may cause the development of depression, relationship problems, aggressive behavior, and health issues (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011). They also have access to pornography, obscenities, and instructions on committing criminal activities. In turn, television has a negative impact on teenagers because it promotes alcohol, smoking, sexuality, and violence. Therefore, young people are at risk of being involved in undesirable and dangerous activities (Mesch, 2009).
Social media creates a platform for sending threatening, harassing, or humiliating messages on a regular basis, which is called cyberbullying. The online harassment occurs with the help of a variety of cyber mediums. For instance, the increased rate of incidents has been noticed in such social media platforms as Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter as well as video-sharing sites like YouTube. Other environments such as voice and text chats, texting via tablets and smartphones also spread this phenomenon (Hinduja & Patchin, 2014).
Regarding the methods of cyberbullying, peers can send hurtful messages to others, spreading rumors about the victims. Teenagers can create web pages or social media platforms to mock certain people. Moreover, with mobile devices, they can record unauthorized videos or take pictures of the victim in the situations where privacy is expected, and distribute the materials online (Hinduja & Patchin, 2014).
As a result, cyberbullying causes higher levels of depression and anxiety in victims than traditional forms of bullying. Moreover, there is a connection between hurtful comments and suicidal attempts, which happen the next day after the victims read them (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011). In addition, there is a link between cyberbullying and low self-esteem, delinquent behaviors, poor academic performance, and family problems. According to the research by Hinduja & Patchin (2014), about 25 percent of over 10 000 young people aged from 11 to 18 have experienced incidents of cyberbullying (p. 3). Almost 17 percent are cyber-bullied during their lifetime (Hinduja & Patchin, 2014, p. 3). In particular, female teens are the most vulnerable group in cyberspace, with 21 percent of female adolescents reporting incidents of online humiliation (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011, p. 3).
Texting is a powerful tool for private communication that can also be used irresponsibly. Messages cannot convey the reactions of the interlocutors. Therefore, their actions can differ from their intentions. For example, approximately half of teenagers reported regret about a message that they had sent (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011, p. 3). Moreover, texting can be used as a perfect method to humiliate people. It is easy to send embarrassing messages, videos, and photos and at the same time remain anonymous. Likewise, with the intention to bully young people, peers can upload private images or videos to online sharing sites (Hinduja & Patchin, 2014). In addition, texting can take the form of sexting, which contains sexually suggestive nude or semi-nude images or sexually explicit messages. Moreover, young people in relationships can be pressured to send explicit pictures of themselves to their partners. This form of texting can result in emotional distress and mental health disorders in the victims (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011).
Prevalence of technology also leads to an increasing rate of online sexual solicitation and predation. On the one hand, an adult may seek contact with a person to involve in sexual activities, such as having conversations on erotic topics, sharing personal intimate information, and fulfilling sexual requests. On the other hand, teens are more likely to receive such requests from their peers. For example, 13-19 percent of young people reported incidents of sexual solicitation (Carroll & Kirkpatrick, 2011, p. 3).
In summary, technology determines the lifestyles of today’s youth. Nowadays, many young people are shifting rapidly from electronic media such as television and radio to the social media. Social media and technology provide easy and accessible communication as well as a variety of sources with accurate and interesting information. Moreover, the internet serves as a supportive environment and involves the marginalized groups of people. However, if not used with moderation, social media and technology may lead to addiction, depression, and isolation. Prevalence and simplicity of digital media have increased incidents of cyberbullying, sexting, and sexual solicitation.