Youth’s Best Friend, the Internet

by Emily M.

Facebook accounts, crop tops, cellphones and iPods. I had no idea what most of these things where when I was in elementary school. Now-a-days all children worry about is the latest iPod and how many likes they have on Facebook. When I was a child, we played outside until it got dark and if we were lucky we got to play one game of Reader Rabbit before bed. Now youth are glued to their hand-held electronic devices. iPods and iPads always in there hands, playing games or surfing the web. They are losing touch with actually connecting with human beings.

Youth of today are dressing and acting as if they are in their twenties. The young girls I coach like to wear crop tops that show their stomachs and tight skinny jeans. How can you blame them though? They were brought up in the boom of social media. They just have to open the Internet and pictures of celebrities – what’s hot in fashion and what’s not – is at their finger tips. They see the celebrities that they look up to, wearing little clothing and are told this is what they should be wearing, even though they are only eleven or twelve. Growing up in this age of social media, and the Internet, the youth seem to be more interested in documenting their life rather than living it. The young girls I coach post “selfies” at any chance they get, and over two hundred people will “Like” these photos on Facebook or Instagram. They are so preoccupied with what people think of them and pay little attention to being a child and having fun. They are more concerned with how many online friends they have and take less time to create real bonds with the people around them. This does not allow for appropriate communication or the development of relationship-forming skills.

The Internet is causing youth to grow up too fast. The images they are exposed to and the celebrities they look up to make them think that’s how they should be dressing and acting. Many children at the after-school program I work at talk about the latest music videos. This seems relatively harmless right? Wrong! They are watching videos of half naked women dancing around and watching big fat butts wiggle, wiggle, wiggle. They are exposed to things on the Internet that are not age appropriate; however, the society we live in makes it seem like it is alright that youth are watching these videos. Studies have shown that the Internet can be a great tool for youth. It allows them access to all different kinds of information and allows them to see and speak to people in all different cultures and parts of the world. It can allow a child who may not be overly outspoken to share their ideas in a safe environment; however, Peralta-Gomez, Rodriguez-Burgos, & Omialso (2013) stated that Internet use needs to be controlled by parents. The youth need to be made aware of what is age appropriate content for them to be looking at. Parents need to be more vigilant on what their youth are doing on the internet. It is one thing to tell them they cannot visit a list of sites, but it is another to aid them in finding appropriate ones.

Youth these days are more interested in watching videos and playing games online and less interested in actually getting up and playing a game of soccer or basketball with their friends. The youth that attend my after-school program unless they are forced out of their comfort zone they would be perfectly content to sit beside each other and play their online games. They would never once speak to each other; they would communicate through the game. This does not allow the youth to create real connections with other youth. I believe they need to be playing real life games with their friends and creating bonds and solving conflict without hiding behind a screen. This kind of play will allow for more youth development then playing with their iPods. In a study done by Lee and Chae (2007), result found family communication and relationships decreased in families that the youth used the Internet for games. The child did not have the communication skills or the motivation to build relationship off the Internet. This study also found that if parents were actively using the internet with their youth, showing them what websites are appropriate and useful rather than just banning inappropriate cites, this created a better Internet experience for the youth.

I believe the Internet is a great tool available to the youth of today. It gives them access to all different things that were not available when I was a child. However, it can be detrimental to youth development and relationship building. Youth need to take time away from their Facebook and their online games and just play and allow themselves to be children.

References and Further Reading:

Peralta-Gomez, M., Rodriguez-Burgos, L., & Omi, Y. (2013). Chapter 11. In Lives and Relationships: Culture in Transition Between Social Roles. North Carolina: Information Age Publishin.

Degotardi, S., Sweller, N., & Pearson, E. (2013). Why relationships matter: Parents and early childhood teacher perspectives about the provisions afforded by young children’s relationships. International Journal of Early Years Education, 21(1), 4-21.

Lee, S. J., & Chae, Y. G. (2007). Children’s internet use in a family context: Influence on family relationships and parental mediation. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(5), 640-644.

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10 Responses to Youth’s Best Friend, the Internet

  1. Anonymous says:

    Emily Great Post,
    I agree that today’s youth are spending more time in front of a screen rather then being active and building relationships. Decreasing amounts of playtime for youth can lead to lack of social, problem solving, creativity and many other types of skills that are associated with play and positive youth development. It can also, like you mentioned, lead to youth being exposed to pictures, websites and information that is not age appropriate. Youth’s constant access to the Internet is also influenced by social media that has lead to a new type of bullying and is very hard to control, this can cause youth to develop self esteem issues and can be harmful to positive youth development.
    I also agree that the Internet can be a positive influence as well. It can provide information at the touch of a button, which can be beneficial for educational purposes. It can also help youth stay connected with friends and family that are not near by. The benefits of the Internet come from using it in the positive way, as mentioned parents should take an active role in showing their children what are good websites to go on and how to be safe on the Internet. It also should not be a replacement of communicating with the people around you. Today’s youth are growing up with many more influences then many of us had, it is important to show they how to use them in a positive way and to insure that they are getting the most out of their development.

  2. katelynpeters2014 says:

    I 100% agree with this post. The youth in today’s society are investing and wasting too much time on social media. Not only is this taking away from their ability to develop positive peer, family and other crucial relationships, but it is causing a downward spiral of negative emotions.

    With social media being so involved in youth’s lives, especially in young girls; they are constantly admiring their favorite celebrities and trying to look like them – except that is impossible. Celebrities look nothing like they do on TV and in magazines. Photos and videos are edited beyond recognition. Young girls are using social media and these images as what “pretty” people look like. It is causing young girls to develop extreme cases of depression, anorexia, bulimia and other social disorders. Young children should not have to worry about these issues. They should not have to worry about putting make up on, how they are going to do their hair tomorrow for school or what they are going to wear. They should not be concerned with checking their cellphones, tablets or Facebook accounts. What happened to just simply focusing on having fun and being a kid?
    Like you mentioned, with young girls always using social media it is developing their personality maturity before their body and brain are biologically ready to; aka: 12 year old’s wearing crop tops and skinny jeans.

    With all this being said, we as recreation and sport leaders can make a change to this growing issue. I coaches a girls under 16 team last summer and I made it very clear the first tryout that no one (unless it was an emergency), was to bring any type of electronic device with them to a practice or a game. There is no need for anyone to be running over to the sidelines on water breaks to check their text messages or Facebook accounts.

  3. This post is a perfect example of today’s youth. They are too attached to screens, shutting away their chances of creating positive youth development. Just like the research suggests, family communication and relationships are decreasing with youth that are attached to the internet or their electronic devices. I have had a few experiences where I was at a family friends house, they have a son who is 12 years old and is constantly on his iPod, even while having supper. He has to finish his game before you can talk to him and get a response.

    A lot has changed since I first came to Canada in 2000. Growing up in Europe I never had the chance to watch TV, play video games, or play on my iPod. I didn’t have these things available to me, instead I was out on the soccer field from morning to night every day. When I came to Canada and made some friends, we still played outside, made our own unique games, including sports, made up sports, three house wars, tag, etc. We came inside when the street lights turned on. You have a great point saying you don’t see youth outside anymore playing around, instead they’re playing video games or on the internet. They need to be able to have communication with other youth without the use of electronic devices and internet. This is where they will build their positive development. I have been in situations where youth have started dressing up like the celebrities on TV. Boys wearing their pants half way down their butts, acting all “cool” and having a bad attitude to others. Girls, like you mentioned, dressing up with crop tops and skinny jeans. We as adults, recreation leaders, or role models need to realize that youth will look up to us and try to mimic what we do and how we dress.

    Youth today, as mentioned in the original post, are using the internet in non appropriate ways more than appropriate ways. It seems as though their lives revolve around social media and they need to constantly post what they’re doing every hour. I agree that the internet is a great essential tool for youth, but when its abused that’s where it all goes downhill. Point being is that youth need to stop worrying about how they dress, and stop worrying about social media and trying to keep up with the latest of technology. They need to go outside and have fun and stay active.

  4. Julie macfarlane says:

    the first comment was written by Julie MacFarlane

  5. mbell14 says:

    It is crazy on how technology has changed since we were all children because when I was growing up my father would always tell me to stay outside and play when it was sunny out and I wasn’t allowed to be near a computer or the television until it got dark or if it was a rainy day. Now in the past years parents are just letting their child use the ipod or ipad because it keeps them busy and quiet, and it’s an excuse for parents not to entertain their children themselves by not going outside to play catch or kick a ball around. I notice when I drive in the neighborhood that there’s not as much children outside playing or doing different stuff with their friends as much anymore and the reason for that is the internet because children can just use Skype to talk to their friends or play games with their friends online.
    I agree with Emily that the internet is a great tool for children to use for their schooling, but it’s also bad for a child sometimes because there is so much distractions on the internet for children.

  6. blpye says:

    Great post! I agree that technology has essentially taken over our lives. I remember being a child and being super excited when we got our first computer when I was in grade 2. We still had dial up internet, and my desire to stay inside on the computer was very little. I used it maybe an hour a week. The same can be said for television, when I was younger a number of people I knew had
    “country cable” or 3 channels. There was rarely anything on during the day or after school that we wanted to watch so we would go play outside, or build things inside.

    On another note, there are national parks now that are adding wifi to their parks. They are trying to appeal to a wider range of patrons. However, I would argue they are only facilitating this dependence on technology. Now, not only are children exposed to technology at home, and wifi in most public areas, but also in the woods! There s no escaping our dependence on technology!

  7. kimeagher says:

    What a great post! I love that you acknowledged how parents need to guide their children in proper and beneficial Internet and technology use not just limit what they search. As a child I didn’t have the Internet, but my parents made a point to show me how to look up topics of interest in books and how to use libraries. I believe that the Internet has the potential to provide the same learning experience for children in this day and age and that parents can influence how their children use the Internet by interacting with their children and displaying constructive web and technology uses.
    The authors of ‘Balancing Participation and Risks in Children’s Internet Use: The Role of Internet Literacy and Parental Mediation’ agree with the need for parents to do more than just mediate what their children can do and see via technology (Lee & Chae, 2012). Parents need to teach their children how to avoid searches that uncover risky sites and be weary of what to stay away from for their own safety. Parents educate their children on the danger of strangers and risky physical activities, so it makes sense that they should educate their children on the dangers of the Internet as well. I hope parents of the Internet age are aware of how the technology can be good for their children and the importance of education on how to positively and carefully use the world wide web.

    References:

    Lee, Sook-Jun & Chae, Young-Gil. (2012) Balancing participation and risks in children’s internet use: The role of internet literacy and parental mediation.
    CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking 15(5):257, 2152-2715.

  8. j6kj3 says:

    Great post! Children don’t know how to be children now since they are able to hide behind a screen; they are glued to their ipods, phones etc. I have asked my cousins numerous times to put away their phones and hang out with the rest of the cousins and very rarely do they listen. It always bothered me because they didn’t understand they were missing out on a key opportunity to hang out with their cousins, aunts and uncles. I loved visiting my grandparents because it usually meant seeing other family members, but now my cousins are missing out on this opportunity because of their phones. Is it a parent’s responsibility to ensure that their children are using their technology properly, by setting rules and guidelines. I read an article where a mother had very strict rules on the amount of time her son could use his phone, but encouraged him to download as much music since it is so readily available to us now, which I thought was a great idea.

  9. b834z says:

    Fantastic post Emily
    I could not agree more, specially about the youth fashion these days. The girls specifically seem to want the ‘Ideal body’ so that they can keep up with the fashion trends of women in their twenties. I would imagine that elements on the internet such as this is a major factor as to why youth are becoming so much more stressed these days as opposed to when we were children. I think it I a bit of a two way road however, I think parents need to become more strict. First of all, time on the electronic devices need to be limited. Secondly, rules need to be set in order for youth to develop a sense of value. I know the celebrities and famous women dressed the same when was young. My friends and I always wanted to wear crop tops so that we could look like Britney Spears. Our mothers would not let us wear that clothing because that’s not how young girls should dress. Sadly I think this attitude towards youth development has disappeared. I saw a post the other day comparing group photos of girl best fiends ten years ago and now. It is quite sad when you see the differences.
    I think that recreation and sport leaders can take tis mater upon themselves to really be aware of the role model positions that they are in and stress how important self image is and self respect. As leaders they are able to influence youth’s choice of activities. If they can get youth to spend less time with their devices and more time outdoors or just being active and creative, I think there will be a major change in the behavior of youth.

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