Based on a recent study released in 2018, a whopping 95% of teenagers in the United States have access to a smartphone, and 45% confessed that they are using their technology “almost constantly” (Anderson and Jiang, 2018). These statistics are alarming, and society as a whole should be concerned as technology is consuming young teens lives. Inevitably, technology is going to change the future, as well as teenagers health. Technology not only has a negative effect on adolescent brain development, it as well affects their ability to cope and their aptitude to form human connections, therefore raising major health concern for todays modern youth.
Altered Cognitive Health
Cognitive health refers to how the brain functions, therefore the overall health of the brain. The brain is undoubtingly an extremely important and vital organ to the body, yet no one ever considers how modern daily living is taking a toll on this indispensable structure. All individuals need to strongly consider what they are making their brains undergo when constantly being exposed to technology, and how the consequences that are left.
The results are astounding when looking at studies that involve how technology affects a teenagers cognitive health. All screens, weather computer, phone, or tablet, as well as wi-fi routers emit a light known as radiofrequency radiation (RFR). Due to the position of a phone/tablet/laptop pointing directly towards the users face, the majority of RFR is directed straight towards the users brain. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), radiofrequency radiation has been categorized as a possible carcinogenic, which means that RFR could be a feasible cause of cancer. This fact alone should be a sufficient indicator of how technology is negatively affecting youths cognitive health, but there is more. RFR is known to “attack” cells that are immature and still growing. As well, RFR affects the blood-brain barrier which interrupts toxins from entering the brain – a vital part of cognitive health.
Another study showed that youth are often multi-tasking due to being fully reliant on their devices at all times. Weather they are studying or spending time with family, youth tend to be fixed on to a device which in return disallows them from being mentally available to the tasks they are attempting. Not only is their attention being split between two or more contrasting tasks, but youths ability to absorb information deteriorates, as well as puts their brain into overdrive. When the brain is in a state of overdrive it becomes stressed and agitated more easily, leading the person to make uninformative decisions. According to Patoine (2008), every time one switches tasks, it creates a toll on the brain therefore doubling the time it takes to get the task done, as well as severely affecting performance. which then Society expects adolescents to use technology in order to better their own knowledge, yet ironically it is the exact thing that is keeping them from doing so. When ones attention is being constantly divided, how can they achieve 100% on both?
An opposing study showed that 75% of brain damaged adolescents relied on the use of a smartphones as a tool to aid in regaining memory loss (Plackett, Thomas, and Thomas, 2016). Through certain brain training apps, studies show that they do indeed benefit those who have altered memory due to brain injury. Clearly, this is a positive advantage that technology can serve to people who can actually promote their health and wellbeing. This shows that there are indeed instances where technology is appropriate and beneficial in an adolescents life, but more often than not technology is not being used in an affective way.
Impaired Ability to Cope
The ability to cope refers to how resilient one is when a challenge enters their life. Ability to cope can be compromised by a multitude of things including mental health, environment, and relationships. In todays world, technology is a substantial area of societies environment, therefore having an impacting affect on youth.
More than ever, young teens are progressively struggling with mental health, often leaving them feeling stranded and alone. Recent studies confirm that technology may be a major factor when it comes to youth mental health. Significant components of “technology stress” include cyber bullying and body image shaming, both which affect how young teens think about themselves. A recent study done on 500,000 teens executed by Dennis-Tiwary (2017) discovered that teens who spent the most time on their devices and social media were more likely to suffer from some sort of mental illness, such as anxiety or depression. The ongoing pressure of social media often gets to a point where youth get so wrapped up in it all that they lose who they truly are, which is a significant factor considering that this particular age group spends upwards of 6.5 hours on technology per day (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006). The fact that these small hand held devices that are often made accessible by parents can cause so much ongoing damage is simply shocking. At such a young age, for youth not to be candidly content with themselves due to what strangers on social media platforms have to say is outrageous. Is it really worth it considering the cost of it all?
Social anxiety is being seen more commonly in todays youth and the strong relation to technology use is undeniable. A study developed in 2009 focused on the relation between technology use and social anxiety in youth. This study executed by Pierce (2009) used 280 male and female students, in which over 30% of them stated that they spend an average of 4 hours per day strictly on social media platforms and instant messaging. When considering that the average teenager needs sufficient amount of sleep, attends school five days of the week, and likely attends extra-curricular activities – this likely indicates that todays children are constantly multitasking. Not only is multitasking a significant problem, as stated earlier in the paper, but with excessive time spent on technology use, also comes lack of time spent on “real life” situations. Overall, adolescence feel much more secure when communicating through technology, which promotes social anxiety (Pierce, 2009). Due to this, females experience higher levels of social anxiety and are also more likely to suffer from social anxiety. There has to be something said regarding the whole other epidemic of girls and young women not speaking up for themselves in social situations. Empowering young girls to begin to build their own voice, might begin with cutting down screen time, and therefore promoting face-to-face communication.
Lack of Human Connection
Though most are fortunate enough to be surrounded by friends, family, co-workers, and community, often these essential relationships are taken for granted while the distraction of technology overpowers. Nonetheless, the youth are experiencing the greatest downfall of all since they are failing to learn and experience how to create, initiate, and maintain vital connections between others.
Usually a significant area of a young teens life is entering the relationship territory for the first time; learning to reciprocate more intimate feelings for a love interest. This is an exciting, yet nerve wracking time for youth, however unfortunately expressing feelings for another isn’t what it used to be. In order to feel “safe”, generally adolesents prefer to use their cell phone as a protective shield to being refused or humiliated. A recent studied showed that 50% of teenagers use social media platforms as a way to initiate conversation between a love interest, before actually seeing and talking to them in person (Lenhart, Anderson, Smith, 2016). If youth don’t even feel comfortable talking to someone they romantically are interested in, how does society expect them to be successful at a job interview? Or be successful at simply speaking up for themselves, let alone others? Additionally, 29% of teens use. Technology as a method to break up with a significant other, which is still considered moderately unacceptable. This is a consequential situation that modern teens all around the world are part of, and weather it makes their love life easier or not, it will lead to repercussion in coming times. Instead of being so reliant on technology and devices, why doesn’t society promote a more realistic world where humans form connections with each other and spend time with one another, instead of liking, sharing, commenting, and chatting.
Society in general chooses to be oblivious to the fact that online communication affects real life communication in todays youth. Expecting that children who use technology as their primary source of communication are going to have the same communication skills as those who experience adequate daily face-to-face interaction is absurd. Human interaction involves voice, body language, tone, gestures, and eye contact – all things that online chatting simply cannot provide. According to Patoine (2008), lack of these crucial skills will not only affect how fluent youth are in communication, but how they receive others. By enabling youth to turn to technology in order to communicate with others, society is enabling youth to let go of vital skills and tools that are crucial for their life ahead.
Technology as an Aid in Communication
A contrasting view to the belief that technological communication only interferes with a childs ability to form true human connection, is a study that shows how using technology can actually better communication skills. Autism spectrum disorder (ADS) is a condition that is associated with brain development, often altering the persons social skills and behaviours (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Due to these dysfunctional social skills, those who suffer from ADS are encouraged to develop and practice social skills in order to better themselves. One way of doing this is through use of interactive videos which teach play skills, social conventions, and appropriate responses to others (DiGennaro Reed, Hyman, Hirst, 2011). This form of learning ws particularly successful for those with ADS because it gave them an environment to learn social skills in, without the pressure of being in a real life situation. This is an excellent and appropriate example of how technology can be used for the better. There are other areas where technology is vital for those to communicate such as long distant relationships, world-wide business interaction, and medical needs.
Technology is undoubtably an unavoidable area of todays modern life, and likely isn’t going anywhere soon. Unfortunately, in todays modern and technology driven world, society is often dismissive about the unfavourable affects of technology – especially when it comes down to how they affect the next generation. Yes, in many ways technology is inevitably useful and has its appropriate uses, yet there are an alarming amount of concerns regarding excessive use. Considering the detrimental affects that technology can have on youths brain development, ability to cope, and aptitude to form human connections, when all is said and done, is teaching youth to so heavily rely on technology really worth their cognitive, mental, and social wellbeing?
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