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Negative Social Effects of Modern Technology

Updated on June 20, 2015

The Dawn of The Cell Phone Age

“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.” This quote accredited to Socrates from before the time of Christ has never rang more true than it does today. Amidst the rapid globalization of twenty-first century communications and electronic devices, teenagers are on the fore front of a new age of media and technology. The average teenager from the United States will be connected to media whether it is television, cell phones or the internet a combined 6 hours a day (more than any other activity except sleeping)(Diaz, www.aboutourkids.org). Researchers from around the planet are now attempting to be the first to prove whether the advantage of being a socially connected world is beneficial to teens or if it produces unwanted social, behavioral, mental or physical effects that are detrimental to one’s health.

Among the most drastic effects that modern technologies have on our teenagers is the often harmful effect on one’s vocabulary, attention span, and ability to remember. While utilizing text lingo such as “Lol” or “Rofl” may be a pragmatic way to quicken conversations it has unfortunately migrated into school essays and job applications. The use of this text lingo has the effect of marking the user with an uneducated stigma preventing success in the post-schooling world. Much more severe problems exist in the realm of time constraints; If a teenager is using an electronic device or watching television chances are he or she is not putting forth productive effort towards the betterment of their education or advance of their knowledge. A January 2010 article from the New York Times said, “Forty-seven percent of the heaviest media users earned grades at a “C” or below, while only twenty-three percent of students who used media under three hours a day suffered from the same bad grades.” The grades may be attributed to the mental state of heavy users who stated that they were bored, sad or even unhappy away from media at school. Overall, any excessive time placed on social media could be time studying, having healthy interactions or having quality outdoor play.

Along with simply wasting time, recent studies have linked children who played more video games and were often texting or watching television were at a much higher risk of obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics has consistently linked higher media usage with a higher chance of becoming obese. Simply by watching television teenagers are subconsciously being targeted by fast food companies who rarely provide healthy food for their customers. The Kaiser Family Foundation research on food advertisements targeting teens showed that less than one percent of all advertisements were promoting healthy food. Results also showed that while the average teen is subjected to over four thousand ads for food they only see approximately one hundred and sixty advertisements promoting good health and healthy eating. This coupled with the increase of total media attention teens that rose from six hours a day to eight hours a day, television and media have become frequent targets of almost every fast food brand. While fast food may be a large factor of obesity it is often promoted by a sedentary life style that has become all too accepted in America. Television shows often poke humor and don’t condemn childhood obesity while showing kids it is natural to be lazy and perfectly acceptable to get no exercise a day. Experts are also worried about this trend includingeducation expert Dr. Janet R. Wojtalik who said, “I believe that this new wave of entertainment focusing on those that are overweight will do nothing except showcase human flaws for the sole purpose of profiteering,” and that “Promoting a healthy lifestyle with healthy values and healthful messages will do more for our society than promulgating entertainment based on someone's unhealthy condition. I truly hope the media messages of the future are not 'it is trendy to be fat'!” While there are many weight loss shows promoting healthy living, Wojtalik fears that new shows will promote childhood acceptance of obesity saying “Besides, do we really want our children accepting obesity? Should any of us be 'comfortable' with obesity? With the influx of technology we are creating a new breed of video couch potatoes. Telling our children that weight doesn't matter because 'fat people can fall in love too' is just wrong.”

The increase of media and technology in the life of teens has also spawned a new world of cyber bullying and cyber gossip. Since the dawn of Facebook and Twitter, hundreds if not thousands, of people have been fired and countless job and college applications have rejected because of cyber gossip. Unlike conversations of the past now everything you do or say can and probably will find you later in life and could potentially ruin your chances at success. Sites such as InternetSaftey101.com have released statistics that nearly ninety percent of internet users have been a target of meanness on a social media site or chartroom. In 2012 the same site found that one in every twenty kids had received disciplinary actions due to an experience on a social media site. Parents lacking social media skills leave their children treading in dangerous waters and the potential for something to end badly increases when a teenager has to explore social media all by themselves.

Along with cyber bullying and gossip, social media has been shown to be negative to one’s social skills when used excessively. An excessive usage of social media and electronic devices has been shown to fail children by not promoting good social interaction and may come to fail them later in life. Children who spend excessive amounts of time on social networking sites-seven hours or more- may not develop normal etiquette skills and conversation skills needed later in life.

With the rise of violent television and video games, studies have shown that teens may become more aggressive, according to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Teens that play these games are more likely to participate in fights and argue more often among their peers or teachers. According to Douglas A. Gentile, teens with mental health issues may turn to video games for relief, but then become addicted to playing, causing social, academic, and even emotional problems that last into their adulthood. In some cases he continues, teens can become so addicted to video games they can become isolated and depressed. Along with that, television and video games fail to show any consequence for actions. According to the American Association of Pediatrics Committee on Communications seventy-five percent of all murders on television are committed without remorse and without penalty. The research also showed that

Forty-one percent percent are associated with humor; thirty-eight percent are committed by attractive perpetrators; and fifty-eight percent involve victims who show no pain. This Hollywood-like viewpoint of murder and death often causes teens and young adults, whose morals aren’t yet clearly defined, to value life less and commit violent acts without having knowledge of intended consequences or outcomes attributed to their acts.

While the rise of social media and the globalization of electronic devices have helped millions, if not billions of people, the key to effective teenage use is moderation. Social media has created a new universe of connectivity that has bridged gaps of language and ethnicity but also brought the negative aspects off all life into the electronic age. While safe and monitored electronic use for short periods of time can do wonders for a child’s social life, unmonitored and consistent use may result in social, emotional and behavioral effects that would harm a teen well into their adult years.

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