Many parents are getting quite concerned with how the advent of new technologies are affecting their teenagers. From their mobile devices to game consoles, kids are being engulfed by these elements. While some argue that these advancements are helping teens excel such as finding a job or accelerated learning, some feel it is distracting them from being productive.
The degree to which new technologies will influence our existence in the future is still uncertain, but it is already possible to learn some lessons from the trends currently discernible. Adolescents are important users of new tools such as the mobile phone, portable digital players and other tools offering the opportunity to access the internet with just one click.
It should be noted that adolescents tend to get used to all of these instruments much more quickly than adults. In fact, the current adolescent generation was born well after the first computers and for the majority after the invention of the World Wide Web (1989) and its diffusion. “At the same time, you should know that this new industry targets teenagers very effectively and sometimes even exploits it shamelessly” says Sam Miller from Parenting Teenagers Academy.
Adolescents from all regions of the world have largely integrated these new technologies into their daily lives. According to the most recent statistics from the Federal Statistical Office, 91% of young people between the ages of fourteen and nineteen living in the US use the internet several times a week. This enthusiasm and addiction quickly spread on both sides of the Atlantic causing a great deal of anxiety, although it seems even more important in Asian societies as evidenced by the number of scientific articles on this subject from countries such as Japan and Korea.
Nor should the opportunity presented by wireless communications in low- and middle-income countries be underestimated. In different African countries, young people, but also adults, immediately switched to using the mobile phone or Wi-Fi (wireless broadband internet) without having to spend on infrastructure cables and facilities necessary for the traditional operation of radio, television or the phone.
This immediate access to global information represents for these countries, and in particular for their adolescents, a development potential that is still difficult to measure. A number of African countries have understood this and are now benefiting from it. For example, processes for monitoring various health behaviors using mobile phones or handheld computers have been put in place, making it possible to obtain data that were previously difficult to collect.
Finally, one of the difficulties for adults confronted with these new technologies is to keep up with the frantic pace of innovations in this area. As much as adolescents are able to quickly master all of these advances, all of these new technological advances, adults also have more difficulty adapting. We thus enter into a situation that Margaret Mead described as a post-transitional society, 3 in which information no longer passes, as was traditionally the case, from old to young, but on the contrary, from young to old. It is for adults to recognize it humbly and see it as an opportunity rather than a risk.
While new data continues to emerge, the debate will continue on whether or not new technological advances like phones and access to the Internet or going to undermine the well-being of our youth. But like anything in life, it requires a great deal of education and supervision to ensure that our children use these things in a responsible manner.