Internet Addiction & Verbal Skills in Teens

The Internet has certainly changed our world and the way we communicate with the people around us. Teens are able to communicate in a way that their parents and grandparents could not before them -- forging connections at the click of a button with people all over the world. But while communication has been shaped by the Internet, there must exist a careful balance, especially within the teen demographic; what is often seen as a priceless communication tool can seamlessly morph into an addiction. When Internet addiction presents itself, there are strong implications on the verbal skills of teens.

Prevalence of Internet Addiction

A decade ago, few people would have accepted the idea of Internet addiction. But today, Internet addiction is a serious threat to teens, who tend to integrate nearly every aspect of their lives online. Kimberly Young, author of the book “Internet Addiction: A Handbook and Guide to Evaluation and Treatment,” explains that while addiction rates vary across cultures, in the U.S., Internet addiction among teens stands at about 5 percent of the demographic, with this number increasing to more than 15 percent as teens reach their college years 23.

Internet Addiction and Communication

Internet addiction is considered an addiction of comfort or escapism 1. Teens addicted to the Internet often feel more comfortable in the cyber world than they do in the real world. This comfort spills over into how they communicate. An Internet-addicted teen is generally more comfortable typing behind a keyboard than he is speaking face to face. He is more likely comfortable with communicating anonymously, a big difference from real-world communication. While Internet addiction has proven to impact verbal communication skills, it impacts more than just the verbal aspect: Internet-addicted teens are typically asocial, distrust their peers, irritable and less assertive in real-world situations.

Weaker Verbal and Written Skills

Overall, Internet addiction has proven detrimental to a teen’s verbal skills. Teens who use the Internet to avoid the real world fall into bad communication habits. Information systems expert Adman Omar, author of the article “Impact of Technology on Teens’ Written Language,” explains that too much communication via the Internet can hurt a teen’s writing and verbal abilities. He found that teens accustomed to communicating online are less fluid with their language, using a smaller variety of words and being less emotional with their language. While such informal and somewhat cold communication is acceptable in social-media circles and online games, it doesn’t fly in the academic or business worlds.

Verbal Development

Children become increasingly social as they reach their teen years. Teens can satisfy their social desires in a number of ways. In the past, all such ways included face-to-face interaction. Today, it doesn’t. Teens addicted to the Internet are still social, but they are social through their computers, not through their bodies. What this means for teens is that their face-to-face verbal skills often suffer as they use the Internet as a substitute for real-life communication. Teens who socialize online have less practice speaking, listening and observing body language. This lack of practice can hurt them in the long run. When they need to enter college or the workforce, a teen may find himself weak in areas of verbal communication.