There is no question that the use of technology is on the rise in our culture. More and more people are connecting to the internet at higher speeds. Cell phones have become a necessity in our fast paced world. Ipods, Nintendo DSs, and PSP’s can keep us entertained anywhere we go. How is this increase in the use of technology affecting our families, especially the teenagers in our families?
Teens are wired. They have what seemingly unlimited options when it comes to technology they can use to stay connected and entertain themselves. 87% of teens surveyed say that they are online, with more and more saying they have high speed connections. Of the 300 million people that use facebook, 9% of them are teens. Research cited in July 2008 stated that 83% of teens own a cell phone and the average teen generated 50 to 70 text messages per day. Cyber-communication is definitely being utilized by teens to maintain relationships. There are positives and negatives that come along with using technology to communicate.
New technology presents many benefits, both for teens and their parents. Having a cell phone on them makes contacting parents much easier. Whether they need a ride or are checking in throughout the evening, cell phones makes this type of communication simple. It is also easier for parents to contact their teen, especially through text messaging. Many cell phone companies now offer GPS services that allow parents to know the physical location of their children. Social Networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace allow teens to keep connecting with friends through chat features. There is also tons of good information on sites such as YouTube. One of the greatest benefits to teens is that they can exhibit their creativity by becoming content creators through blogs and online video.
There are challenges that come form overuse/misuse of these technologies. One of the biggest problems is that teens can become isolated from friends and parents. As teens spend more and more time on the computer and on their cell phones, there is an appearance of connecting with people. However, connecting with people online is not the same as connecting in person. There is no eye contact. There is no opportunity for physical responses, such as smiling or appropriate touch. Body language and voice inflection is a huge part of communication and those elements are missed when using text messaging or chating to communicate.
Connecting with your teen is the first of the major tasks that we have been discussing in our podcasts and other blog entries. As a parent, it falls upon you to place boundaries on the use of technology for your teen. Agreements such as ‘no cell phones at the dinner table’ (my 6 year old son actually came up with that agreement at our house so he would have dad’s full attention) or ‘no cell phones on our camping tirp’ can give you time with your teen that is free of the distractions of technology. If you let it, technology can become a major barrier in your efforts to make genuine connection with your child. With appropriate boundaries on technology and using the technique Jeff talks about in the podcasts you can create a powerful, genuine connection with your teen.