In the news headlines today we read about the danger of ‘Facebook addiction’ and the internet ‘rewiring’ children’s brains because, well, that’s what made the headlines…but underneath the drama was a full report in to the impact (good and bad) that interactive technology can have on young people’s brains, behaviours and attitudes.
Lacking in the news coverage was the important fact that it is how these technologies are used that determines their impact on an individual, not the technologies themselves. If teenagers stay up late texting, then they’ll be sleepy the next day. Revelation. It’s not the existence of the phone that causes this, its how young people are encouraged and guided to use the technology that is now increasingly at their finger tips.
It was encouraging that the report championed the internet as a valuable learning resource and highlighted that ‘teenagers frequently turn to the internet for information and discussion about emotional, moral and social issues regarding sex’…ahem, enter TheSite.org
Importantly, there remains several areas where further research is needed. For example, the report explains that playing action video games can improve some visual processing and motor response skills, but we don’t know exactly why, or the extent to which these enhancements might benefit our everyday lives. We do know however, that excessive use can have an impact on self esteem and anxiety levels.
Overall, it’s clear that young people need to be supported in developing their awareness about being safe online, rather than kept away from social network sites all together…again enter TheSite.org for some helpful tips!
Some interesting insights from the report:
- Just over one fifth (22%) of adult internet users aged 16+ and almost half (49%) of children aged 8-17 who use the internet have profiled themselves on a social networking site
- one in five teenagers in the UK meet the criteria for pathological addiction to video games
- most surveys report that 10- 35% of children have received a cyberbullying experienc
- many gay and lesbian adolescents find online communication a safer way (in terms of maintaining privacy) to discuss problems surrounding their sexual orientation and its public acknowledgement.