How Is Technology Distracting to Teenagers?

Way back when, kids went to school with a clear focus and few distractions. Of course, young kids always find ways to distract themselves from their studies, regardless of era. These days,however, technology has advanced to a point where it’s almost impossible for a child to be without it. The problem is when technology becomes more of a burden than an aid.

Modern teens are less likely to engage in face-to-face communication. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The Problem with Technology

Computer science expert Keith Beard has written in the book “Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment,” that technology is not inherently distracting, but the way that teenagers use technology can cause major problems in school, home life and self-image. For example, a cell phone is essentially just a communication tool. It eases the burden of family-to-teen communication, which is why many parents buy them for their teens. However, when teens begin to use cell phones for other purposes -- which they almost certainly will -- the technology can prove distracting.

Stunted Development

The teen years are crucial for a child’s development, especially social development. The teenage years give a child many opportunities for social interaction, which improves on the social skills teens will need for college and work. Today’s technological communication tools, ranging from cellphones to the Internet, often become social crutches. Instead of interacting face-to-face, many teens opt to interact via text messages, social media and email. While these forms of social interaction are sometimes useful and important for entering society, teens tend to develop bad habits through them. For example, teens might become accustomed to typing via the “teen-speak” method of replacing words with letters, as in “y r u h8n?” -- "Why are you hating?” This might not be a large issue to teens who are keeping up with their English courses, but even the most academic teen is giving up practicing important skills such as nonverbal communication and active listening when she replaces face-to-face communication with face-to-screen communication.

Identity

One distraction of technology to which teens are particularly susceptible is the ability to redefine their identity through the Internet. Teens attach particular importance to their self-identity, both in how they see themselves and in how they see others. For most people, uniformity of identity is impossible; almost no one is perfectly satisfied with himself. The draw of the Internet in the teen years is the ability to control the information you put out about yourself. Teens who are not confident in their appearance or who do not feel popular in their social environment have the opportunity to use the Internet to try on different personas. This experimentation, while natural, can be distracting, and some teens will find themselves more comfortable in cyberspace than their real lives.

Family Dynamics

When used unproductively, technology can bring about family problems. Kimberly Young, director of The Center for Online Addiction, points out in her book, “Caught in the Net,” that many modern teens respond to family instability by using technology to cope. How teens cope with a problem in childhood sets them up for dealing with stress in adulthood. For example, instead of addressing a problem, such as a conflict with a parent, a modern teen might turn on the video game system and escape into a more comforting world. This can lead to the exacerbation of a problem that could have been solved head-on. If a teen runs to technology whenever she feels uncomfortable, addiction might develop, which is much more serious than a distraction.

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