Technology is relatively new in terms of its prevalence with children. As many parents are not as up-to-date with the latest gadgets, they tend to have little knowledge on the possible effects technology might bring. But technology, while useful, brings many negative effects to teens' lives. Parents who have technophile kids should be aware of the possible risks and dangers.
Informed parents know that the media blows the prevalence of online sexual predators out of proportion. However, they do exist, and they often go after easy targets, namely children. Technology such as the Internet and smart phones give both children and predators the ability to make contact with large amounts of new people. Uninformed children might feel they are making a friend but in fact are running the risk of being preyed upon. The key risk here, though, is not the predator but the lack of adult knowledge about technology and the lack of supervision parents give to their children’s online behaviors. Parents who feel bad prying into their children’s lives are ignoring the fact that most children, especially teens, are sexually curious, willing to take risks, and have poor decision-making behaviors. So, while not common, sexual predators do exist and should be something parents talk to their kids about before allowing them full reign online.
Mental Health Problems
Clinical coordinator at Illinois Addiction Recovery Shannon Chrismore wrote in the book, “Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment,” about the comorbidity between technology addiction and other mental health problems, mainly depression and anxiety disorder. Chrismore found that 76 percent of those seeking treatment for technology addiction were also positive on a depression diagnosis; 24 percent were positive on an anxiety disorder diagnosis. The more children use technology, the more likely they are to fall into habits or emotions that lead to other mental health disorders. For example, spending most of your time playing online games leaves little time to develop meaningful relationships or social skills. The result can be a lack of friends and social awkwardness in school. This feeling of being unaccepted can result in depression or anxiety.
Technology today makes many things possible that were impossible in the past. Today, through smart phone apps or social media sites, kids are connecting with others like them. The problem with this is that groupthink can develop. Whereas a diverse social group or a social group supervised by adults will quickly bring to parents’ attention to problem behaviors, these “under-the-radar” kid-to-kid relationships often encourage risk-taking. For example, teens who wish to experiment with alcohol might go online to seek out an adult who can supply them with beer or liquor. Some of the conversations online are completely focused on risky or illegal activities, such as those in forums dedicated to drug use or vandalism.
Technology is fun, which, surprisingly, can be a huge problem. The release of dopamine children receive when engaging in certain types of technology use is addictive. The mental response to technology addiction is similar to that of substance abuse, according to the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, David Greenfield, who wrote a section of the book “Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment.” The good feelings brought on by dopamine during a fun technology session are the feelings that both start an addiction and drive addictive behavior, such as sudden urges to use technology at inappropriate times, including during class, church and the family dinner.
The Good Side
Technology is not all bad. When used in the right way, children can benefit from the advantages of technology. For example, the availability of information online allows children to easily find answers to their many questions and collect data for school projects. The social side of technology also brings some advantages, giving kids the capacity to make new friends, expanding their social networks. Teens with weaker social skills, such as the autistic and those with Asperger’s, might find the Internet and technology such as smart phones as suitable substitutes to face-to-face communication in many cases. With supervision, children can gain the advantages of technology while avoiding the many traps it brings.