Dependence on technology increases in teens

Junior Alex Maravetz uses his cell phone to text during school.

We live in a digital world. Whether it is the newest Blackberry or a new high definition laptop, technology in today’s youth is becoming increasingly present in everyday activities and life.

A cell phone seems to be permanently glued to every teenager’s hand in America, and communication through social networking has become an acceptable substitute for face to face conversation.

Although benefits like high speed communication, social awareness and acceptability come with these technologies, they do not cancel out the negative effects technology may inflict on its users.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 75% of all teenagers in America now carry a mobile phone as well as 58% of 12 year olds. About 87% of these teens send and receive text messages.

In February 2008, 38% of teens were daily texters; that has now risen to 54%.

Studies done by Pew research have also revealed that girls more fully embrace cell phone communication than boys. 86% of girls say they text friends several times a day, as compared to  64% of boys.

This doesn’t mean  that all boys fall into this category. Sophomore Damir Sabic is quite the opposite.

“I usually text 24/7,” Sabic said. “It’s my main form of communication.”

Because of the rapidly increasing number of teenagers engaging in cell phone use, adults are beginning to question: how much is too much? How does the constant cellular communication affect a teen’s social life, skills and education?

The replacement of talking with texting can reduce the efficiency of one’s communication or speaking skills.

“Good communication is effective communication,” principal Gail Moon said. “Texting and messaging don’t allow you to do that because there’s so much improper English being used and it’s easy to misinterpret things.”

With instant messaging (IM) or texting, the message can be read numerous times and edited before sending; all improvisation and spontaneity that naturally come with face to face conversation are lost.

Mobile communication is convenient for teenagers because there is no fear of awkward silences or sentences that happen often during the adolescent years.

However, ignoring the awkward stages now can cause them to reemerge later in adulthood.

Cell phones have also sparked a controversy in schools. Students can easily get distracted with texting in class.

Recently, West has initiated a new cell phone policy, which allows students to use phones in the hallways, during lunch and some teachers allow it in class.

The cell phone policy has decreased the amount of disciplinary action against students for having phones out at inappropriate times, but it still creates the issue  of cell phone use at all free times; for example, in the hallways and during lunch.

“Cell phones have the potential to be valuable if used for educational purposes, but they also distract a student from listening in class and takes away from other educational responsibilites,” Moon said.

Some teachers would be more comfortable with allowing students to use their phone if they could actually control what they are using it for.

“It’s a cheating aspect,” math teacher Dean Youngblut said. “A phone could be useful in class, but I can’t control what they’re using it for and the temptation is too big to wander into something else,”

One of the more serious riskes that come with teens and cell phones is a craze called “sexting.”

Teens are still developing,  physically, emotionally and mentally.  Today’s youth is not uncommonly open with their sexuality, due to influences of the media and cliques. “Sexting” is usually categorized by sending sexually suggestive messages or pictures through text message.

Cell phones are not the only source of technology constantly emerging into the everyday life of a teen. Social networking websites have also increased in popularity.

A social networking site is an online place where a user creates a profile and builds a network that connects to other users.

Based on a survey done by Pew, 55% of all American online teens (ages 12-17) use a social networking site.

Social networking, like cellular communication, brings about the benefits of constant high speed communication. It allows teens to feel socially involved and connected to friends.

Social netoworking sites also have the ability to affect a teen’s education. Some teens see it as a distraction, while others find it useful.

“How many times have  you seen someone asking for school help on Facebook?” Sabic said. “It comes in handy when you need to ask somone last minute.”

However, these sites do pose more  serious threats, such as privacy and cyber bullying.

66% of teens with online profiles claim to have a private profile, which means it is not visible to all Internet users.

Of those with a public profile, nearly half claim to display some sort of false information to protect them from online predators.

Cyber bullying can be classified in various ways. It can range from posting an embarrassing picture online to making threats and spreading rumors.

About one third of online teens say they have been targets of such behavior.

Cyber  bullying can lead to  serious disciplinary action, especially if in regard to school.

“We take situations like cyber bullying and the necessary consequences will take place,” Moon said.

Technology is everywhere and won’t be going away. It is something that everyone has adapted to, teens especially. Destructive behavior through technology can be reduced through education of risky actions, discipline for risky actions and moderation of use.