In today's world where almost everything revolves around technology, adolescents have become avid users of tech-driven devices. These devices include mobile phones, computers, iPads, TVs and other internet enabled technological devices accessible to the adolescents. A study by the Pew Research Center dubbed Teens, social media and technology overview found that over 80% of teenagers in the USA own mobile devices. The research also shows that adolescents spend approximately 7.5 hours per day on technical devices and they send an average of 60 text messages per day. 92% of the respondents reported going online at least once daily while 56% go online severally in a day with an average teenager checking their screens up to 150 times a day. The effects of this seeming obsession with technology have led to negative impacts on the development of teenagers. It has affected their psychological development, physical development as well as their social development leading to personality disorders, learning disorders, social withdrawal, cyber bullying and health risks like obesity.
Excessive use of technology has been linked to delayed cognitive development in young adults (Zweig, 2016). Technology negatively impacts on language development, creativity levels, memory retention and causes attention deficits which lead to difficulties in learning, social interactions, creativity and imaginative capabilities. Although researchers have not come up with definitive prove of the effect of technology on cognition, they have postulated that the developing brain and central system are susceptible to radio frequencies emitted by technical devices (Davies & Eynon, 2013). The temporal and frontal lobes are considered important in the cognitive capabilities development in teenage years, they are still developing. When teenagers use their phones, the radio frequencies impair their development. Research has also shown that the level of artistic creativity in teens has exponentially decreased since the introduction of software and applications which enable them to do almost everything technologically (Sundar, 2015). The result has been poor language and literacy skills, concentration problems, and attention deficits which have led to laziness in learning, impaired creativity and cause stunted imaginations.
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Technology has had an adverse impact on the emotional development of teenagers (Zweig, 2016). Technology has to a large extent replaced human interactions between teenagers and their peers as well as with the older generation. With the average teenager sending 60 texts per day and spending 90% of their free time on social media, the need for physical communication has reduced which has led to poor socialization skills and negatively affected the emotional wellbeing of adolescents. During face to face communication, vocal and visual cues facilitate the encoding and decoding of the message through facial expressions, eye contact, and the tone of voice and body postures (Davies & Eynon, 2013). With teenagers shying away from real communication, their ability to communicate and understand people's emotions has deteriorated along with their emotional intelligence which makes them susceptible to manipulation. This has led to poor emotional health and contributed to the rise of emotionally related disorders like sociopathic, psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies (Boyd, 2015). A study on two groups of sixth graders reported that the kids who had zero access to electronic devices for five days were more responsive to emotions and nonverbal cues of photos of faces than their counterparts who had access to devices over the same period (Sundar, 2015). This shows that teenagers are more empathetic and sympathetic when they interact face to face with people more and overindulgence in technology has the opposite impact.
The technology-driven communication, therefore, leaves teens susceptible to deception from virtual criminals like identity thieves, pedophiles, and bullies since they can't assess the intentions of people they’re interacting with unlike in face to face communication (Zweig, 2016). The negative impact on the teens’ emotional intelligence extends to their day to day lives. Since technology has made their conversational skills dormant, the teens are missing out on lucrative opportunities in the real world due to their poor communication skills. They fail in job interviews, are unable to pitch their ideas eloquently at work or any other social settings which eventually leads to frustration, depression and poor personal relationships (Boyd, 2015). The virtual anonymity provided by technology has also made teenagers careless with their words since they feel that there is no any accountability mechanism online especially when pseudo accounts are so easy to hide behind. The anonymity has made insensitivity and lack of empathy the normal culture of today’s teens that they extend to their day to day physical interactions (Zweig, 2016). The aftermath has been teenage criminals, sadists, sociopaths, Psychopaths and narcissists who hide behind screens and hurt others unremorsefully.
Technology has also been linked to increased lifestyle and psychiatric diseases among teenagers (Sundar, 2015). Although technology is not the direct cause of these diseases, it facilitates their development among young people. Researchers have discovered a causal link between technology overuse and conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, autism, coordination disorder, sensory processing disorder, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorder (Zweig, 2016). As teenagers become more entrenched in technology, they become alienated from the real world and their families and friends leading to depression and obesity due to the inactivity associated with technology. As little teenagers continue to isolate themselves from the world and becoming more engaged in the virtual world with movies and game characters, they begin struggling with identity crises. They become torn between emulating the popular villain characters on movies and games and embracing their reality of loneliness and little or no social connections (Davies & Eynon, 2013). These feelings trigger disorders like bipolar disorder, psychopathic and sociopathic tendencies as they try to find their identities and some are even becoming serial killers.
Technology has also led to an immobility oriented lifestyle where people don’t need to leave the comfort of their houses to get supplies or communicate important messages to people (Zweig, 2016). The trend has encouraged laxity in teenagers and increased the uptake of junk food which is just a dial away something that has contributed to increased rates of obesity among teenagers. Sleep disorders like insomnia have also been escalated by technology since teenagers are becoming more and more addicted to the internet leaving no room for anything else in their lives even sleep. The sleep deprivation leads to poor performance in school, in social activities and could eventually lead to shutting down of their bodies (Boyd, 2015). Technology has also led to depression due to the isolation with Facebook depression being named by psychologists as the most common form of depression among adolescent. Cyberbullying triggers Facebook depression, feelings of inadequacy and self-esteem from the comparison of what other teens have as well as the lack of an emotional support system due to the social isolation caused by over indulgence in technology (Sundar, 2015). Technology is, therefore, a contributing factor to the rising numbers in teenage diseases both physical and psychological and if not monitored could lead to suicides and criminal activities.
Cyberbullying is one of the major detriments to teenagers' development at school, at home and in all areas of their lives since it leads to low self-esteem, depression, and even suicide (Sundar, 2015). Cyberbullying entails a systematic abuse of power over the victim by the bully facilitated by the internet. Cyber bullying can lead to grave consequences if not checked including suicide, depression, social isolation, violent reactions and even murder and retaliatory attacks by the victims if it escalates to physical attacks (Zweig, 2016). Online disinhibition is the leading cause of cyber bullying since teenagers feel free to post whatever derogatory posts they wish without facing any consequences for them The perception that the internet streets are un-policed encourages the harassment, and in most cases, the bullies are oblivious to the consequences of their actions since, unlike physical bullying their victims suffer behind their screens (Boyd, 2015). Cyber bullying which is aided by technology leads to adolescent depression which if undetected leads to suicide and affects the academic performance of the victims as well as how they relate to other people since they are seen as social pariahs by their peers.
The bullying aftermath affects the social, emotional and intellectual development of the teenagers since it is occasioned by feelings of helplessness and uselessness and a negative attitude towards life in general (Zweig, 2016). Cyber bullying not only affects the victims but it also affects the perpetrators. Research shows that bullying gives the perpetrators a sense of power, amusement and social acceptance among their peers . Another study found that bullies’ justify their behavior by citing their dislike for the victim fueled by negative prior interaction either virtually or physically with the victims (Zweig, 2016). Another study that researched the nature of bullying reported that cyber bullying is correlated with poor social skills and technology as earlier discussed is one of the leading causes of poor social interactions in teenagers. The research found that bullies’ behaviors are characterized by aggression, social anxiety, and low esteem levels. These studies show that technology not only facilitates cyber bullying which has a detrimental impact on teenagers’ development and transition into adulthood but it also provides an unhealthy channel for bullies to deal with their emotional issues (Boyd, 2015). Technology is, therefore, has a negative impact on teenagers physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Technology has created an overlap between public and private lives leading to a lack of privacy which makes teens easy targets of criminals and victims of scandals which could affect their fragile emotional state for the rest of their lives (Zweig, 2016). Unlike in the analog era where people could keep their locations and addresses private, technology has made tracking down personal details very easy even for amateurs. Information on a person’s personal history, their listed physical address, the school they go or went to, where they work and many more personal details is at the click of a button (Sundar, 2015). The propensity of teens to post every detail of their lives online makes the term privacy almost nonexistent in the teenagers’ lives. Embarrassing information is as easily found and circulated and given the insensitivity in today's teenagers; they are using the internet to even scores with those that they disagree with (Boyd, 2015). This could be through posting photos deemed embarrassing, screenshots private conversations, making memes, mean hashtags, cat fishing and many more reputation eroding tools. The emotional state of teenagers is highly fragile since they are at a confusing transitional stage where they cannot fully relate with either adulthood or childhood (Boyd, 2015). The impact of this invasion of privacy is the embarrassment and malicious scandals, phishing, viruses, and misuse of personal information which is readily available to hackers.
In cases of exposes facilitated by technological platforms, if the embarrassment is bad enough it can lead to teenagers’ social avoidance and total withdrawal, and at times it has escalated to attempted and successful suicide cases (Boyd, 2015). The improper use of technology puts the teenagers in danger and exposes them to a myriad of risks online. They are susceptible to over sharing personal information which makes them easy targets for kidnappers, hackers, pedophiles and other dangerous people like terrorists and drug dealers or even sex traffickers. Research shows that 83% of online sex crimes against young adults are facilitated by social networking sites where the pedophiles lure the young boys and girls (Zweig, 2016). Technology also encourages inappropriate behaviors like sexting and research shows that 24% of adolescents aged between 14 and 17 have taken part in nude sexting. In the eventuality that these sexts get exposed, the teenagers get badly embarrassed, and it stays with them for the rest of their lives (Boyd, 2015). Technology, therefore, exposes the teenagers and makes them easy targets for cyber crimes.
Technology has adversely affected the traditional family setting which is crucial for the development of teenagers (Zweig, 2016). A study found that teens spend 7.5 hours per on average on entertainment technology and 75% of the respondents had a TV set in their bedrooms with over 60% of North Americans leaving their TVs on all day. The TV sets, phones, and other technological devices had replaced the traditional family meal times when people got together and discussed family issues (Boyd, 2015). Adolescents are therefore going through life without the much necessary parental guidance leaving the Internet as the only source of guidance. The internet misleads them, and the lack of guidance leads them to give in to peer pressure, abuse drugs and engage in other unlawful activities (Sundar, 2015). Technology has therefore interfered with the family cohesion which negatively affects the development of teenagers.
In sum, technology has adverse effects on adolescents as they mature and grows into young adults. It leads to poor communication and social interaction skills, leads to lifestyle and mental diseases, leads to a breach of privacy and endangers the teenagers' lives. Additionally, it negatively affects emotional and physical development, leads to depression, obesity, cyber bullying, lack of empathy and leads to attention deficits.
Boyd, D. (2015). It's complicated the social lives of networked teens . New Haven: Yale University Press.
Davies, C., & Eynon, R. (2013). Teenagers and technology . London: Routledge.
Sundar, S. S. (2015). The handbook of the psychology of communication technology . Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Zweig, K. (2016). Socioinformatics - the social impact of interactions between humans and IT. S.l.: Springer International Pu.