In my opinion there is a vastly growing epidemic that is affecting young children and teenagers everywhere in the newest generations as well as the ones that have proceeded and I am afraid it is not going to go away any time soon.
The trend is technology, and although it provides many conveniences for our society, I’m afraid it is affecting the younger generation in a negative way. When I was in graduate school, the sociology nerd in me noticed that technology in our societies is growing and people are becoming more dependent on their computers, smart phones, tablets, etc, and I waved it off as a phase our nation was going through. However, working with the younger population opened my eyes to the negative affects of technology, and it is making this therapist worried for how our future generations will develop adequate social skills.
Parents come to me with the same, overlapping concerns that I hear often: “ My daughter is on her phone all hours of the night,” “I can’t get my son off of the computer,” “My daughter gets into fights with her friends on Facebook and Twitter and is becoming depressed,” and so on and so forth. A personal problem that I have with technology nowadays is that it is making our population less social. When bringing up this topic with others I have been given the response, “But Kelly, how is it making us LESS social? I’m on Facebook and Twitter all the time and I text my friends constantly. I am always socializing!”
In my opinion, socializing through technology is not 100% socialization. I see many children and teenagers that never leave their houses on the weekends, or call their friends to hear their voices, or have friends come over. What I hear is, “Well, I stayed in this weekend but I was playing Xbox with Jim and Steve online, so I was socializing all weekend with them.”
There is also the concern of how these individuals are gaining social skills. Socialization is a life skill that we gain over time through our families, friends, experiences, classrooms, extracurricular activities, etc., but if a child is constantly in his room with technology being the primary way he socializes he may be missing out on some prime developmental tools.
I have a theory that relates to individuals who get so involved with social technology that they do not care to learn direct socialization: I fear that social technology may be correlated with the later onset of social anxiety, and the younger the person is introduced to socialization through technological means, they will be affected more at a later age. I believe that if an individual receives the same amount of direct face-to-face socialization mixed in with technology based socialization, they may gain all the developmental social skills that they need to acquire throughout their lifetime.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I also understand how technology can help social skills. An example would be if an isolated, introverted person used technology as a means to socialize with people who he would normally not speak to in person. It could actually be a form of exposure therapy to an extent. My theory only relates to a specific percentage of the population and working with teenagers is opening my eyes to their world and how times are changing at a rapid pace.