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Jon Mattleman, Director
Needham Youth Services
(formerly the Needham Youth Commission)
I wanted to write about the Internet and associated technologies…and the use of these by teens and preteens. By associated technologies I am referring to smartphone, apps, websites, etc.
Below are 10 points for parents to consider:
- The reality is that most parents are newcomers to the Internet, and their children have known the Internet and computers since birth. So it is no wonder that an increasing percentage of youth know more about how to use technology than their parents.
- nternet sites such as Facebook and Instagram as well as the wide scale availability of still and video picture devices (e.g. Skype, smartphones, etc.) is changing the way youth communicate to each other and to the world.
- All of these technologies have the capacity to magnify the most challenging parts of an adolescent’s life --- thus embarrassing episodes and actions are now fodder for the entire world to see.
- The use of technology by young people is mind boggling --- youth use smartphone as alarm clocks, they tweet about their moment-to-moment life, they create pictures and video, they use it for directions, and more. In the past few years youth have begun to use their smartphones for texting more than for any other use --- it is not unusual for a teen to text 3,000 to 4,000 times a month (at the same time listening to voicemail messages by youth is virtually a thing of the past).
- Object Permanence is a fundamental concept in developmental psychology which children learn at the end of their first year of life. The classic example of this is when an adult plays peek-a-boo with a baby and each time a person’s face reappears from behind their hands or behind an object….the child is surprised. Pre-teens and teens do not fully understand object permanence as it relates to the Internet. In other words, whatever they place on the Internet can always be seen by others (even well after it is deleted).
- The connection between technology and at-risk behaviors is direct and scary. Youth plan and discuss engaging in at-risk behaviors using smartphones…and their ability to connect at all times increases their ability to “get away” with dangerous and illegal drug and alcohol use.
- Youth can feel anxious when not connected, as they are frightened to be left out (in part because they are scared that they will be talked about)…thus they often are connected 24/7.
- Youth will write things on the Internet that is often bolder and more inappropriate than what they might say to another person face-to-face. I have read many of their Internet-based conversions and the sexualized language and in-your-face words can come from “the nicest kids.”
- Cyber-bullying is real and a 24/7 event. While face-to-face bullying generally declines as youth go from 7th to 8th to 9th grade, etc., cyber-bullying actually increases over this time period.
- Parents need to talk to your children about the use of technology and come to an agreement regarding how a child will use it. To overlook this contributes to the likelihood that youth will use technology in unhealthy ways.