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.