Teens & Technology: Was Simpler Better?

Teens today face a much wider world to tackle than the world their parents faced when they were adolescences. Technology affords teen the opportunity to connect with the outside world in ways we probably never even dreamed possible when we were their age.

I remember a paper I was charged with writing back in high school entitled: Technology Good or Evil. We were each asked to take one or the other position. I chose to definitively accept neither. Instead I proposed that technology itself could be used for good or evil depending on the intentions of the user. Of course this conceptualization is far from brilliant. Although I am sure my adolescent ego was proud of the position I chose to take.

Certainly my supposition holds true in today’s social networking, technology connected world.

Technology has seeming increased our teens tolerance for many things. Actions of others for example, that we would have found profound, shocking, or even morbid, are seemingly taken in stride by our teens when they are routinely broadcast on YouTube or SnapChat or Vimeo, Vine, Tumblr, etc. Teens today are also at risk of being more openly judged as they post their thoughts, feelings and actions for their friends and ‘friends’ (followers). Quite often are teens are subject to having content posted about them without their consent.

We have created new words and policies to address these situations. ‘Cyberbully’ and ‘Catfishing’ are examples of words created to describe bad social networking behavior.

Because the majority of parents raising teens today were not born into the same culture-the digital age, we, (myself included) find ourselves at a disadvantage. Thankfully this gap is quickly closing as the years go by. In the mean time, we are left to parent with a distinct disadvantage. While some of us may be quite savvy at negotiating the Internet, technology and all the associated offerings being born into a culture and learning about it are two different experiences.

Our teens easily talk in ‘text’ as their digits deftly negotiate the keys on their cellphones and laptops. Speaking personally, it takes me forever to tap out one sentence let alone an entire paragraph, although with continued practice I am getting better. Whole conversations consistently occur before I can offer one answer or accompanying question.

Our teens live in a world that in many ways makes them more vulnerable to criticism and judgment. As such however, they have developed coping skills that thicken the skin and let things go. Well honestly, some of them have; and even then in some instances the emotional internal storm many teens experience especially in relation to their vulnerable egos, makes it difficult to manage some of what may be slung at them.

As parents our best approach is to be there to encourage our teens to empower themselves and help boost their confidence and feed their egos. It is my observation that this generation of parents certainly does a good job at this feat. We throw virtual parades around their accomplishments. We take them here, there and everywhere. Talk to a dance mom, hockey dad, or parents who have swimmers, you will hear about true dedication and devotion toward children. Our teens are negotiating a more difficult wider world and this has certainly made our jobs as parents more intense and even difficult.

Technology is both good and bad. I must admit however, there are moments I wish I could turn back the clock and take away all the advancements we have made. There is still something to be said about the days when TV and a decent stereo system was all a teen really wished for in their rooms.