The Effect of Communication Technology Among the Youth
Communication unquestionably plays a very important role in our growth as humans through our inevitable interaction with the self and others to sustain relationships within our growing social networks. The venues of such substantial communication are not only seen in our everyday close encounters with people, but generally in our every move within the day to accomplish our work, our studies, or even recreation.
Globalization has its impact in extending the limits of an individual’s need for communication.
The concept of a transcultural approach, for example, to enable a member of a profession to cater to the needs not only of people of his own race, but to those who are of different cultures as well, has been incorporated into the system of education. The increased migration into the open systems of many countries to welcome foreign employers led to overseas workers communicating to their families through the telephones or the use of the internet.
The media has affected our concept of beauty, convenience and consumption. Commercialization and advertisement highly utilize communication strategies.
However, without the technological advances such as the use of the internet, mobile phones, and videoconferencing, among others, this wide stream of communication within and among countries would have not been possible.
Recollecting the first methods we had as a people in communicating with others who were outside our physical reach involved the use of letters and telegrams. There was also the remarkable invention of telephone by Grahambell. Since his first message over the telephone, a lot of advancements have been made to even improve our system of communication. The internet is widely used by people globally. The fast release of new brands of cellular phones and notebooks seem to indicate the increased revenues made out of this industry due to the people’s support.
While we enjoy the many advantages of these forms of communication technology, it is important to note, however, that any form of technology has its own set of disadvantages. The loss of one’s face-to-face conversational skills and threat of one’s failure to question the soundness of information may be some examples. These disadvantages, if unmonitored and unregulated, may have its detrimental effects among its users.
Among those are greatly influenced by the use of technology as a tool in one’s everyday lifestyle is the youth. The youth, as commonly observed, are in a stage where peer and media influence is said to be high. To demonstrate the extent of use of communication technology among the youth, a study was conducted to identify the number of users and frequency of its use. A survey was conducted in 11 countries to identify the frequency of use of technology among 13-24 year olds. It was found out that in Australia, the most common technology utilized by the youth is the mobile phone. Among its many functions, sending of text messages was said to be the most utilized. When it comes to the use of the computer, 64% and 85% of the youth were identified to send instant messages and electronic mails once daily, respectively (Gross).
Furthermore, in 1996, Suller claims that 149 million people are using the internet worldwide, and that this number inclines by 12% every month. (qtd. in Affonso 1999) The US Census Bureau reports that 22.2% of the 76 million Americans who use the computer in 1997 use the internet, and that 20% of children who have computers at home use them to connect to the internet. (qtd. in Affonso 1999). While these projections were made 10 years ago, this number have undoubtedly increased given the increasing popularity of the use of internet among nations, and the effect of globalization to catalyze this growth.
Given these statistics, a huge percentage of the youth’s lifestyle is affected by these forms of communication technology. The power of curiosity may greatly influence the youth of this adoption of technology into their system, and which, without their awareness of its possible ill effects, may compromise their own development.
Youth and Communication Technology Defined
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) identifies youth to be individuals aged between 15 and 24 years. The organization describes this population group to be diverse due to their continuous development and their varying experiences. Such diversity may be observed not only between and among countries, but in individuals, who may live in the same country, yet bound by the cultures and traditions of their own regions (UNESCO).
Communication technology, on the other hand, refers to the course of storing and delivering data or information through the use of technology, specifically “electronic and graphic” media. (South Dakota Department of Education) Communication technology is said to allow individuals who are physically distant from one another to continue their exchange of information. Examples of this which are highly utilized by the youth are mobile phones and the world wide web through the use of the internet.
This paper is an attempt to find evidences supporting the presence of advantages and disadvantages of communication technology. It argues that despite its various positive impacts, the lack of monitorial and regulatory activities on its disadvantages may lead to detrimental effects among those who utilize it.
The Advantages of Communication Technology
UNESCO supports the use of information and communication technology in that it is seen to increase the youth’s access to information which enables them to partake in their society’s activities. UNESCO assists the youth to participate in the spread of information through the provision of needed technologies to youth organizations and of assistance in the creation “media education and youth information and communication networks” (UNESCO).
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the youth may acquire a number of benefits from this type of technology. It allows the youth to regularly communicate with their family members and peers. It enables the young who may have difficulty establishing relationships in a customary social environment to establish social connections. Such difficulties may be caused by the lack of available youth of their age in their area. Furthermore, the use of the internet may enormously enrich the knowledge of the youth in diverse topics (CDC).
Discussing the impact of information and communication technology in Australia’s educational system, McCann D., Christmass J., Nicholson, P., and Stuparich, J. (1998) purport that the benefits of the use of such technology among the youth include the following: a) increase chances for education by minimizing the effects of unavailability of resources such as time and study; b) can develop students’ decision-making through a variety of choices to select from. This may be demonstrated by a students’ chance to fit class schedules with their work schedules, if any, or through a diverse bank of information they may choose from in their studies; and c) potential improvement of the quality of the university’s conduct of instruction and research (McCann et al, p. v). The last advantage, though it does not directly concern the youth, may improve on the quality of education through the enhancement of the manner by which they are taught, and by the professional growth their own teachers experience through information and communication technology use.
Furthermore, Curtain (December 2001) claims that no nation would undermine the importance of ICT, regardless of its economic stability. The ICT is said to be a powerful tool in penetrating global economic networks to ascertain employment. Without this, economically unstable countries may remain inexistent in the employer’s list whose service needs they would have been competent enough to provide for. The use of information and communication technology plays a role in promoting the youth’s opportunity for business enterprise, and in establishing public-private business partnerships. Even the poor youth in developing nations such as India has seen a profit-making activity through mobile phone ownership (Curtain).
In a Business Week Online issue, the story of a 16-year old girl named Neelam in a poor village in India uses her mobile phone to generate income for herself. The mobile is the only available phone for the public in her area. An income US$ 8.75 that she generates from this is intended for her future education. She envisions herself as being computer literate, which she hopes will give her a good job. Among those who use this public mobile phone are farmers who communicated to possible purchaser of their crops (quoted in Curtain 2001). This illustrates that the use of mobile technology even in the poor countries has been proven to be supported as a tool to aide economic growth.
Communication technology use also creates employment for the youth as they act as translators of web information. This information, being largely in English, is translated into the native language and local context, making the data beneficial to individuals who cannot read or speak English. (Curtain).
Given this review of studies then, it is asserted that indeed the information and communication technology is used globally, regardless of the purpose and the economic standing of its users. The advantages of its use have been seen to affect the educational, social, and economic spheres of an individual. It is said to increase the educational opportunities and learning of the youth, provide venues for the establishment of social networks when the traditional setting is not seen as a viable milieu to do this, and it may increase the economic productivity of the youth through tapping business or employment opportunities within and between nations.
Disadvantages of Communication Technology
As CDC explains, the use of technology is not one that has no ill effects. The term “electronic aggression” has been used to demonstrate the youth’s usage of the internet to “embarrass, harass or threaten their peers” (CDC). Bullying among students these days does not only come in the form of physical abuse. It is accompanied by verbal abuse which may cause psychological and emotional turmoil among those victimized. What makes aggression through the internet even more appealing to the youth is the fact that the abuse or the bullying could be done with an innumerable set of audience, an existing website which could be viewed time and again, and less threat of identification. Social connections among groups who bully could likewise be formed the way that traditional social networks could be formed.
If one could see the type of online games that are considered the fad today due to their utmost appeal among the youth, violence could be observed. The adolescents are exposed to settings that very much resemble real life. The use of weapons and the affliction of violence through the use of these is the primary tool one has to achieve the goal of ‘murdering’ their opponents. What is even worse is the fact that these kills actually lead to a reward, a sense of gratification among these individuals. This inculcates in them the value of conflict resolution through violence, and the youth are therefore are at risk of committing violence in their real life.
Internet use is also said to hamper the social skills of children. According to Weinstein (1995), the negative impact that the television has been found to have on our social skills may even be made worse by the increased internet use. Its use is said to have led to risky gaming activities, possible addictive behaviors and exposure to unhealthy materials with sexual content. (qtd. in Affoso) Seemingly, today’s youth are more inclined to find recreation and social interaction through the internet. The advantage of multitasking by enjoying a lot of different activities such as instant messaging, online gaming, forums, and the like seem to have replaced the traditional way of actually visiting someone to establish a conversation or going out with peers for a communal activity. A lot of students are observed to be addicted to online games to the extent that they may sacrifice their classes for this activity. As Constance Steinkuehler claims, students who fail to do their school works spend a significant amount of time outside the school playing online games, discussing among peers information pertinent to this appealing activity (Steinkuehler). There should, undoubtedly, be a step towards increasing teacher awareness and intervention in order for this kind of detriment to the education of the youth to be eradicated.
In a study conducted by Ybarra, M.L., Espelage, D.L., and Mitchell, K,J., it was found out that the greater percentage of youth who use the internet do not frequently engage in sexual harassment and exploitation. Among those who are involved in these activities, an inherent psychosocial disturbance was identified. It purports then that the exploitation is brought about by the disturbance, and not by the internet use (Ybarra). However, it is implied then that the internet creates a venue for these individuals to continually put other members of the web at risk of being abused. Furthermore, the authors suggest that professionals in the corresponding discipline should be abrupt in identifying such cases in need of medical attention, and to provide the necessary intervention.
In a survey conducted in US in 2003 among individuals aged 10 to 17, 25% of the respondents said that they experienced unwanted exposure to sexual materials and online pornography. This contradicted the common notion that those who had the exposure to such sites is only limited to those who actively seek them. Twenty five percent of those who had unwanted exposure reported to have be “very or extremely upset” because of this. (Mitchell, K.J., Finkelhor D., Wolak, J. 2003). This further supports the claim that the internet put the users at risk to being exposed to sexual materials which may negatively impact their emotions. What is important to note about this is the fact that those who are afflicted are young, and may not necessarily be prepared to react to or handle these stressors.
A lot of cases especially in many developing countries have been reported where children are used to promote pornography. Online chats with the use of a webcam enables two individuals who are physically separated to view each other. This device is exploited as a tool for child prostitution by asking children and adolescents to perform sexual acts before the camera. Indeed, without the authority’s extra step in resolving this problem, the issue of child and adolescent prostitution over the internet could lead to a society’s demoted values.
Research suggests that the internet becomes a venue where sexual gratification could be achieved by looking for possible partners online, particularly among men seeking sex with men. This activity is said to increase the possibility of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. (S. Salyers Bull, M. McFarlane, L. Lloyd, and C. Rietmeijer). Using the internet as a tool seems to be convenient should anyone wish to meet others to have sex. It saves them the time for the usual course of dating to know more about the partners. Websites or online chat rooms in many different sites cater to such activities. Coming online to such sites readily trims down one’s possible targets into a pool of those who have come to the site for the same purpose, thus increasing the possibility of meeting a partner. Such a way of meeting people does not give them the chance to know significant information, such as the possibility of the partner being positive for sexually transmitted diseases. What makes youth even more vulnerable to this is the fact that they are the stage of exploring their own identity and sexual behaviors, thus increasing their risk for acquiring diseases.
To further illustrate this point, it has been found out that 48% of American youth said to have had sexual intercourse, while 15% had engaged sex with 4 or more different individuals. In 2006, 14% of those who were tested positive for HIV/ AIDS were individuals aged 13-24 years. Every year, there are around 19 individuals diagnosed with STD infections, 50% of which are aged 15-24 (CDC). With the youth’s risky behavior towards sex, the availability of the internet may prove to put these individuals at risk for meeting infected partners and acquire sexually-transmitted diseases.
The advent of internet use has greatly increased the use of online libraries as well. In the old times, once a student is asked to do research work, physically visiting the library is already understood to be an activity the student needs to perform. Being in the library gives the student an access to peer-reviewed journals and articles whose content is ascertained to be scholarly. The librarian plays an important role in assisting the student to perform his research work. Library use promotes uninterrupted productivity and self-direction in studying. With the advent of internet availability and online libraries, however, the student is seemingly not equipped with the necessary knowledge and skill to identify scholarly articles which could be used for the research work. Anyone who is online, as long as he has the technical skills and access to the net, may upload any material and claim it to be factual. The student is exposed to many sites of this type and may use them as scholarly sources, making the internet a tool for disseminating incorrect or intentionally fraudulent information. Furthermore, although the internet increases the student’s access to many information, part of this may actually be deemed not useful, and may in fact even decrease the productivity of the students. This includes their access to online chat, online social networks such as facebook or friendster, or online games which a student is tempted to access instead of concentrating on their online research work.
Indeed, the advantages of the communication technology to the youth are innumerable. These advantages benefit a big percentage of the youth in many different parts of the world. It has been explained earlier that these benefits encompass the educational, social, and economic aspects of the youth’s life. Communication technology has indeed impacted the youth’s education due to the increase of information he has access to. However, the down side of this issue is the fact that despite the enormous amount of information available to the student, he seems not to be prepared and equipped enough to actually discriminate scholarly sources from those that are not. In this case, the access to such information seems to be detrimental, and not beneficial to the student. Furthermore, the productivity of the student may be hampered due to his access to forms of recreational activities that are readily available over the internet.
Furthermore, the communication technology is said to help the youth establish and strengthen social networks with others. The internet and the mobile phones become a venue to establish relationships which would have been difficult to establish for someone whose social skills may not be well-developed, or are experiencing loneliness to the availability of family and peers. Activities through the internet or mobile technology, however, seem to replace the traditional social interaction the youth have with their peers. This leads to the loss of social skills which would have been inherent in the traditional social setting. Furthermore, the widening of this social network seems to have provided a venue where internet bullying and aggression is perpetrated. Sexual violence and harassment has also been found to happen. The website and chat rooms seem to be readily available pool should anyone need a casual sex relationship. This activity may then increase the possibility of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/ AIDS should anyone in the pool be positive for it.
While one may claim that the communication technology is proven to economically benefit the youth, what happens then, if the amount of violence, sexual abuse, harassment and even prostitution results? While economic productivity is evident, public funding to combat these problems may be needed, probably at a cost that the communication technology could not suffice, especially if the cost has caused lives.
Point being, then, is that no matter how many advantages the communication technology has brought into our society, the fact remains that without enough monitorial and regulatory activities to counteract its possible harm, the benefits might be outweighed by the detriments it may cause upon its users. Being the human nature of man, seemingly it is but natural for him to bask in the convenience of technology and to ignore its possible ill effects. It is only when the problem is felt does he learn to do something about it. It is important that having all these problems in mind, as supported by research studies, the authority should start organizing efforts to combat the ill effects of communication technology. Examples of these efforts may include increasing awareness among the youth and their parents. There should be more conscious efforts to identify possible violence, aggression, and violence that may be happening over the internet. The child and the adolescent should likewise be protected from viewing sites containing explicit material through the advancement of filtering programs to control the sites that could be viewed by the children and the youth. Increasing parental supervision may likewise prove to be beneficial.
Indeed, technology, in all its many different forms has inevitably impact our country in ways that we have caused and have benefited from. However, in every form of technology, an accompanying disadvantage exists. There should be continued efforts to identify these such that as a society, man may be able to counteract the negative impact communication technology may or may have impacted in the society’s morale, values, and psychosocial well-being.
Bob Affonso. University of Nevada, Reno. December 1, 1999. <http://www.sierrasource.com/cep612/internet.html. >
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