Technology has become a constant presence in our lives.
It impacts our thoughts, actions and our relationships. It certainly has influence on our teens, in both positive and negative ways.
There is cause for concern, but media reports often present skewed information and create fear in parents.
In the most recent issue of the Monitor on Psychology magazine, there are some fascinating articles on technology, social networking and how the web is changing us.
Should you be afraid?
Two ongoing studies being conducted by a non-profit research organization give evidence that some of these fears are not realistic. Researcher Michelle Ybarra, PhD thinks that it is time to calm our nerves, save perhaps for a small group of young people who report being distressed by bullying and an even smaller number who engage in sexual activity with technology, referred to as sexting.
The frequency of cyber-bullying is not increasing. Some concerns about the impact of technology are inflated. Bullying is still happening online and off, but it is not greatly affected by the use of technology.
What about sex?
“The newer technologies also don’t appear to be driving many more children and teens into accessing sexual content, Ybarra’s data shows.” Teenagers are being exposed to sex online and in video games, but the impact of sexual content on TV and in movies is potentially more influential.
Sexting refers to sending or showing someone sexual pictures of yourself where you are nude or nearly nude.
Adolescents are increasingly interested in sex as they get older. If your teen is viewing pornography or sexting these are certainly signs of concern for other more serious issues.
However, technology does not seem to be to blame. Teens will explore, experiment and take risks with or without access to technology.
The bright side
The bright side is that although technology poses some risks, it also offers a wealth of ways to promote teen’s mental, social and physical well-being.
The article mentions that “examples include exercise programs like Dance Dance Revolution and websites for young people with chronic illnesses that can help them understand and mange their conditions.”
Parental supervision and reasonable structure around technology will limit the downsides. As with many other risk factors, a strong, secure relationship with caring adults is one of the best ways to keep kids safe.
Consider how technology and the internet has been a positive influence on your teenager, allowing him to make friends and connect with others in healthy ways.