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Does Technology Affect Adolescent Behavior?

February 1, 2013
Owensville High School

Does Technology Affect Adolescent Behavior?

Brittni Cebulak

The Greek philosopher Socrates once wrote that "Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers." Does this insightful inference ring true today in modern American society, particularly in the technologically-centered atmosphere at Owensville Middle School?

            In a world where adolescent students in middle school are assigned laptops that are able to be taken to the student’s place of residence in order to “do homework,” there are bound to be problems.  In the school atmosphere, there will always be the students who access games, school email, and surf the web over various topics when they are expected to be performing another task for class. That much is a given and is almost unavoidable. Kids will be kids, as some say, and since the school’s server blocks the majority of the “bad stuff,” there is no harm done, right? Wrong. Once a student’s laptop is out of range of the school’s wi-fi, nothing is blocked, and the student has free-range to do whatever they want on the World Wide Web. Things like social networking, chat sites, YouTube, and darker things are openly at the disposal of these kids in the privacy of their own homes. Statistically, “80% of adolescents possess at least one form of media access,” and the fact that students are permitted to take laptops home only makes access easier and more convenient.

            Obviously, not all students are automatically “criminal” if they take their school laptops home for homework purposes, but it is those that do not that are causing a problem. On average, the youth ages eight to eighteen spends “six-plus hours a day” using media. What are these individuals doing? It is highly unlikely that they are working on homework during this time. Essentially, the school laptops give adolescent students the opportunity to pursue their personal interests—from surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, and social networking. What result can this have?

            52% of students were cyber-bullied in 2012, and Owensville, Missouri is in no way immune from this problem. Despite the fact that there have been numerous anti-cyber-bulling posters hung up around OHS, I do not have any hope of the “virtual violence” ever stopping. Admittedly, this problem seems to be more prevalent among middle school girls, but teenagers in high school are in no way immune from it. In fact, since middle school students are allowed to take their school laptops home, the technological devices offer the perfect opportunity for adolescents to abuse each other. In addition, those that cyber-bully often do not have to face consequences for their actions. What does that prove? That it is okay to say hateful and hurtful things to people when they cannot see or hear you?

            Recently, OHS staff members had the option of taking a survey regarding how the technology that middle school students have available to them affects behavior. Of the nineteen individuals that participated, 42% do not think it is wise that middle school students are allowed to take their laptops home, and 55% feel as if those students abuse the technology given to them. 15% did not know that nothing it blocked once a student’s laptop is at their home. In addition, 26% believe that middle school students should be involved in social networking, while there was a tie of 36% for those that feel that middle school students should not be involved in social networking sites and those who are indifferent about the issue. Furthermore, 42% of participants feel as if the wide availability of technology does not cause behavioral problems in adolescents, while 31% feel as if the technology does cause behavioral problems. Paradoxically, 78% feel that today’s youth are more disrespectful and badly behaved than in previous years, while 21% do not think this.

So what is causing this bad behavior? Is it lack of discipline and poor parenting? Perhaps it is simply the society we live in today—a society in which the young think they are older and are worthy of being treated as adults, oftentimes disrespecting their elders and attacking their peers online. This may sound cynical, but it does appear to be the society we live in today. What a life.







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