Teens instantly connect to friends, strangers and information via the Internet. Teens can gain access to information and learning opportunities, practice written communication, connect with people who have similar interests and explore creativity through videos, blogs and online art or music creation. With the positive comes the potential for danger, especially for teens who may lack the self-regulation to use the Internet appropriately.
Social Isolation and Internet Obsession
Accessing the Internet from devices such as smart phones gives teens almost constant access to social networking, information and texting. On the surface, the easy access seems to foster social relationships, but online communication has drawbacks. Teens formulate their thoughts into a controlled conversation, unlike face-to-face conversations that flow naturally. Teens may "check out" from people who are physically with them when they use phones to check social networks online. They miss out on in-the-moment experiences with their friends because they are caught up on their phones. Teens may also become obsessed with the Internet, checking their phones every few minutes to read new statuses, check email or read texts. This can interfere with responsibilities, such as chores and homework, eventually leading to lower grades. Staying up late using the Internet can cause sleep deprivation, which can interfere with physical health, according to the Children's Digital Media Center.
Technology instantly connects teens to friends, acquaintances and strangers. While many are positive relationships, teens may fall prey to online predators who portray themselves inaccurately. A teen may share too much private information with strangers, including her full name, address or school name. This gives a potential predator the chance to victimize the teen. The Internet has its fair share of sexually explicit materials, which is easily accessible to teens. "Sexting", which includes sending or receiving any sexually related material, is another concern. Teens often don't think about those messages or images being passed on. Poor decision-making regarding these images and messages can affect a teen's reputation in high school and beyond.
Teens feel the effects of peer pressure, which invades the online world just as it does the real world. Social media sites put images, thoughts and actions in the public eye. Teens may pressure one another in this public online format to do things that are unsafe or even illegal. Another source of influence is from online advertisers. Teens see ads on search results, social networking sites and websites they visit. Ads often come from search habits of the user so they are tailored to the teen's interests. These marketing ploys can affect teen spending decisions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Internet provides an additional avenue for bullying behavior. Called cyberbullying, teens use online means to harass, embarrass or threaten their peers. Unlike in-person bullying, cyberbullying can happen any time of day, even if the victim and bully aren't physically close. The Internet gives bullies the option of anonymity, especially in chat rooms or message boards. Cyberbullying can have serious effects on victims, including depression, withdrawal from peers and even suicide, according to the AAP. Peer pressure can cause other teens to join in on cyberbullying.