The Effects of Teenagers Growing Up on the Internetby Hans Fredrick
Teenagers who grow up in the Internet age face a host of different challenges and obstacles than those who grew up in earlier, simpler times. With constant stimulation and communication available at home, at school and even in their pockets through smartphones, teenagers need education and limitations to understand the dangers and the benefits of constant Internet access. Although the risks are many, the potential benefits of growing up online should also be recognized.
In a Frontline report on the effects of the Internet on teenagers, the issue of how identity is shaped by the Internet is expressed in two ways. First, the Internet encourages the creation of alternate identities, where people can assume completely new personas. In many ways, this is a healthy and typical way of interacting on the Internet. This type of behavior takes place in chat rooms, on social media and in gaming environments. On the other hand, the Internet also offers a great deal of anonymity for those who desire it. This allows some to express themselves more freely, while others use it as an excuse to get away with behavior such as bullying or lying that they would not engage in otherwise. As teens grow up with the Internet they have to form an online identity, and parents need to work with them to ensure that it is a healthy and ethical one.
With the Internet constantly available as a sort of surrogate for face-to-face social interaction, certain teens grow up isolated, with personal communication skills that suffer as a result. Social networking or social games take the place of genuine, real-world social interaction. This can make real-world social situations difficult for these teens, creating problems later in life. These types of skills are still important in higher education and for when teens enter the job market later in life. At the same time, other teens may benefit from the communication they achieve online. According to Dr. John Grohol, teens may feel free to share and communicate more openly when online. This sometimes leads to the formation of high-quality relationships, which are essential to a good quality of life. In either case, it is clear that the Internet has shifted the paradigm of social skill development.
The education of teenagers is faced with new challenges and opportunities as a result of the Internet. Students have access to much a greater number of educational resources than was previously possible. According to a survey of Advanced Placement and National Writing Project teachers, 65 percent believe that the Internet helps make students more self-sufficient when it comes to education and research. On the other side of the coin, however, lies the fact that 87 percent of those educators believe the Internet is contributing to a generation with short attention spans. The answer in the eyes of many educators lies in making digital literacy programs part of standard educational curricula.
Perhaps the largest effect of teens growing up on the Internet involves how parents need to approach the task of raising teenagers. How deep this change lies will become more readily apparent when an entire generation of parents is composed of people who were once teens raised with constant Internet access. As it stands however, the guidelines of effective parenting are constantly being expanded because of the needs faced by the online generation. Parents must make their teens aware of the dangers of Internet predators and bullies, teach them to use the Internet responsibly and monitor them for any signs of over-dependence on the Web.