Several Studies and research have established the fact that the internet plays a significant role in the everyday life of individuals today, most especially among adolescents and teenagers. As stated in their findings, “the vast majority of teens in the United States, 87% of those aged 12 to 17, now use the internet. That amounts to about 21 million youth who use the internet, up from roughly 17 million when we surveyed this age cohort in late 2000” (PEW Internet and American Life Project 1). However, there still remain a lot of ambiguities on the exact activities that adolescents engage in during their online hours, who they are interacting with as well as the effect of teenagers’ internet usage on their health, development and well-being.
Several propositions regarding the teenagers’ usage of the internet have gained popular consensus, both from the research and studies conducted as well as from those in the field of popular media. This include the propositions that gender predisposes the amount and type of internet usage among individuals, that the usage of the Internet may bring about depression and social isolation, especially for those in their teenage years.
During the year 1999, about a thousand parents in the United States were surveyed regarding their opinion on the internet usage of teenagers. As such, it was found out that about 75% of those surveyed have expressed their concerns that the internet and logging online may “often lead children to become isolated from other people” (Turrow 4).
In a study by Kraut et al, they speculate that a large amount of time that teenagers dedicate to their internet usage for the sake of mere communication held online lead to a decrease in the formation of crucial ties and bonds among other individuals such as their family and friends. Instead, teenagers merely develop superficial relationships with an acquaintance, or even with a complete stranger most of the time (Kraut et al 49). As stated by Staples, “people who communicated with disembodied strangers online found the experience empty and emotionally frustrating but were nonetheless seduced by the novelty of the new medium” (Staples 2).
This belief became a significant aspect in popular views that the public held regarding the negative effects of the internet on adolescents and teenagers, in that it contributes to their depression and further leads them to isolate themselves from other people. However, it is a fact that as more and more teenagers become internet users, so do the number of their peers or friends who use the internet. This type of communication have become popular due to the advent of several applicants such as emails, chats and instant messaging that allow individuals to determine the time that their peers go online and as such, are able tot engage in private chats that are conducted in real time.
As stated in the survey conducted by the PEW Internet and American Life Project, “About half of instant-messaging teens — or roughly 32% of all teens — use IM every single day” and that “IM is a staple of teens’ daily internet diet” PEW Internet and American Life Project 4). This type of application has several uses for teenagers such that they utilize it to talk and chat with their friends, discuss assignments or simply to inform their peers of the things that they doing or emotions that they are feeling at the given moment.
Another proposition is that internet usage among teenagers and adolescents are brought about by their need to experiment with their identity in an anonymous manner. In a study by Sweeney, teens were observed communicating via instant messaging and chat. As such, it was proposed by a certain journalist that “the Internet’s greatest asset to teendom may be access, and the confidence to slip and out of personalities, the ability to try on identities, the adolescent equivalent of playing dress-up in the attic” (Sweeney 66-68)
The number of people who use the internet grow in numbers every passing day, and as stated by Searcher, “The Web currently has about 16,000,000 users a year, with a growth rate predicted as doubling annually” (Searcher 2). As with other popular technologies that have besieged humans in the past, the phenomenon of the Internet has several effects that are much like those previous technologies such as the television and computer games. As stated by Turkle, “Psychologists are not even sure yet what to call this phenomenon. Some label it an Internet Addiction Disorder (Turkle 6).
He further states that there are not to many differences from addictions with the internet and the cyberspace compared to addictions with these previous technologies although this type of addiction are utilized by individuals to fulfill their various needs whether social, psychological, intellectual or merely to pass the time away
A certain problem that is posed by Internet usage is the vulnerability of teenagers to individuals who seek to abuse or maltreat them is some form such as pedophiles and sexual molesters. In the internet, there is no face to face encounter, thus making it hard to decipher whether the person one is talking to is a fellow teenager or a pedophile simply pretending to be one. This operation has been largely used by molesters, kidnappers and pedophiles alike. However, on the other hand, being able to conceal one’s identity when online can be beneficial especially for those people who may be too embarrassed to seek help personally. When logged online, individuals tend to talk more freely and without inhibition as their ego is protected from any form of humiliation or rejection they mar receive from the other party. This is particularly true for teenagers who are highly self conscious and who places a lot of value on the opinion of other people toward them. As such, online pages of individuals who offer advice or share their experiences have become common. It must be noted however that individuals who are “weaned on computer communications” will not be able to learn the social rules involved in the art of conversation and communication (Stoll 651)
Although teenagers are more capable and knowledgeable regarding the internet, they still have little experience on the value of communication, especially at such at age when they should be experiencing and learning how to communicate with people from all walks of life. The increased reliance that people have on the Internet have served to decrease the need for human contact. The internet has a lot of advantages when used in the proper and right manner. However, too much usage will only prove to be destructive.
Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. “Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being?” American Psychologist, 53, 1017–1031, 1998
Pew Internet and American Life Project. Teenage life online: The rise of the instant message generation and the Internet’s impact on friendships and family relationships. 2001, Retrieved December 5, 2008 from, http://www.pewInternet.org/reports/PIP_Teens_Report.pdf
Searcher, D. “Internet/Web Growth Exponential as Usual”. High Beam, 1997
Staples, D. “What Adolescents Miss When We Let Them Grow Up in Cyberspace” New York Times, 2004 (May 29)
Stoll, Clifford. “Isolated by the Internet.” Mind Readings. Ed. Gary Colombo. Boston/New York: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2002. 648-655
Sweeney, C. “A chat room you can be NE1” New York Times Magazine, 1999 (October 17)
Turkle, J. “The Psychology of Cyberspace”, 1996
Turow, J. “The Internet and the family: The view from the family, the view from the press.” The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, 1999.