Between cell phones, computers, video games, tablets and all the other gizmos and gadgets that your teen can't keep his hands off of, it's no wonder that parents may question the effects that electronics have on a teenager's behavior. While there are seemingly negative aspects to the use, or more likely overuse, of technology, it's key to look at the big picture and make yourself aware of the positives as well.
Think back to your teenage years and you will probably have some memories of talking it up on the family phone all night long. While a few decades ago kids had to share one household phone with Mom, Dad and any siblings, thanks to technological advances many children have their own cell phones. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website, 84 percent of teens report using a cell phone regularly. While younger children also use these devices, they typically use them for solitary pursuits such as watching a video or listening to music. Teens are more likely to use cell phones in a social way. The ease of contacting friends through a call, text or e-mail, or through social media, can boost a teenager's social behaviors, helping the adolescent to have an increased rate of contact with peers.
With wider use of technology comes the opportunity for positive, and negative, social behaviors. Instead of aggressive behaviors such as bullying staying in school, they now reach into the cyber world. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's stopbullying.gov website, cyberbullying includes bully behaviors via electronic devices such as computers, tablets and cell phones. Cyberbullies can send messages to one other teen or can send mass group messages, post to chat rooms or post to a social networking site. These messages and posts can include intimidating, embarrassing or threatening information or pictures. Like the non-technological forms of bullying, cyberbullying can cause low self-esteem, and can lead to drug or alcohol use, depression or lower grades.
From your home TV set to your teen's laptop and cell screen, media messages are everywhere. Messages from media sources such as movies, television shows and Internet videos can work to shape your teenager's likes, dislikes and values. The child development experts at the Healthy Children website note that the media can impact how your teen thinks about specific behaviors, beliefs and ways of acting, such as violence and aggression, sex, body image, male-female stereotypes, racial stereotypes and the use of illegal substances such as drugs or underage drinking. The media may glamorize, or at least normalize, certain negative behaviors such as teen drinking or casual sex. These messages may make risky behaviors appear normal to the growing teen.
The teen years, and the onset of puberty, bring on new challenges for both kids and parents. While your third-grader probably still thinks that girls are icky, your teen may be heading on a course toward his first romantic relationships. Electronics are quickly changing the way that teens relate to each other and develop these budding girl-boy interactions. Aside from talking on the phone and social media sites, technology allows for possible negative teen behaviors such as "sexting." Sexting refers to sending sexually explicit messages or photos through text messages. The Healthy Children website notes that roughly 20 percent of all teens admit to sexting. This type of behavior may seem romantic or pleasurable to your teen, but in reality can result in embarrassment or privacy violations.