Socially Stunted Adolescents

March 16, 2011 at 11:30 pm 5 comments

Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, and Patricia Greenfield.  “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships.”  The Future of Children.  18.1 (2008): 119-146.  JSTOR.  Web.  16 March 2001.

One of the biggest issues that I have with my little sister (she’s 16) is the fact that her thumb is glued to her cell phone.  I watch her at our family gatherings and often wonder if her social development has been impeded by her constant need to be text messaging and checking facebook.  I remember the days when I was a teenager and would sit around with my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles on holidays and actually have a genuine conversation.  I feel like these situations prepared me for the real world.  I watch her on holidays and wonder, “What could possibly be so important in her friends’ lives that they need to discuss on Thanksgiving Day?”  Now that she has access to Facebook and Twitter, this has become even more of an issue. 

My personal experience with this issue is why I was particularly interested in my article for this blog, “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships” by Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greenfield.  In this article, the authors talk about the rise of technology in the past decade and its increasing importance in adolescent lives (119).  They assert that the new challenges faced for both schools and parents alike is to attempt to eliminate the negative uses of the Internet while promoting the positive aspects of this technology (119).  

Subrahmanyam and Greenfield first describe how adolescents are using electronic communication.  Unlike the past, the internet is primarily used to keep in touch with friends (as opposed to developing contact with strangers).  This is not to say that the danger of contact with strangers isn’t there, it is just less prevalent than in the past.  Also, privacy measures make information somewhat more secure than in the past.  They use the example of Facebook giving users the control to change their privacy options.  A study of MySpace profiles “found that users do not disclose personal information as widely as many fear:  40 percent of profiles were private” (123).  On the flip side of this, adolescents are also able to restrict access to their profiles by their parents as well.  They can allow parents to view certain aspects of their profiles while restricted access to others (124). 

The next section, entitled “Theoretical Framework” goes on to say that the authors “propose that for today’s youth, media technologies are an important social variable and that physical and virtual worlds are psychologically connected” (124).  Therefore, they attempt to look at how technology effects the establishment of interpersonal connections and constructing their own identities (124).  Again, there is a good and bad site to the establishment of interpersonal connections, while a 2001 survey shows that 48 percent of online teens believe that their relationships with friends has improved due to the internet (126), online bullying has become a major setback.  A shocking 72 percent of users of a popular teen Internet site in 2005 claimed that they had been harassed or bullied (127). 

Another interesting (but scary) subject that the article delved into was the relationship between adolescent users and strangers.  As I mentioned earlier, the authors do note that there has recently been a shifting trend that shows that the majority of adolescents use the internet only to contact their friends.  This does not mean that contact with strangers is not still an issue, but the authors do point out that there are benefits to talking with strangers.  Adolescents who feel lonely on socially outcast can find comfort in online relationships.  Also, because the internet is filled with anonymous discussion groups, youth that suffer from illness such as AIDS, eating disorder, or self-injurious behavior may get the help that they need (132-133).  Even healthy adolescents may use the internet to address embarrassing or difficult questions (133).  Again, there is a flip side to this, racist behavior or simply exposure to racist comments is often increased (134).  Also, there is the obvious threat of stranger contact and sexual solicitation (134). 

So I guess the end of the this article was a bit of a let down for me.  I thought it would offer me a definitive answer, is increased electronic communication between adolescents helpful or hurtful?  I wanted to shove it in my sister’s face and say, “See, see, I told you so!”  Instead, it simply said that it is both good and bad.  One thing that the authors do assert, however, is that this need to constantly been in touch with peers is leading to “serious parent-child conflicts and loss of parental control” (137).  They reinforce the fact that more research has to be done to figure out how to enhance the benefits of electronic media while mitigating some of the dangers (140).  I tend to agree.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. emiller27  |  March 22, 2011 at 2:40 am

    I have to agree that it is very annoying when you are spending time with some and they are constantly on their phone! It’s absolutely rude! I found parts of your article very interesting. One section that really sticks out is the topic of adolescents talking to strangers online. My first reaction was that there could be nothing positive coming out of this. I instantly thought about all the terrible things that could happen and never thought of it as a way to make teenagers feel comfortable discussing their problems with others while remaining anonymous. It truly seems to be a great way for teens to talk to others who are experiencing or have experienced the same things.

    • 2. amberjayd  |  March 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      I agree with the comment about strangers. This was really a surprising point to me but it makes sense doesn’t it?

  • 3. UseLessInk1234  |  March 25, 2011 at 4:11 am

    GREAT ARTICLE! I can totally relate to this. My younger cousins are obsessed with their phone–it has taken the place of a safety blanket. No one has face-to-face contact anymore. The worst situation is when you are in the middle of a conversation with someone and they get a text message or phone call, they almost immediately answer it and forget they were talking to you. Rude! I feel bad for generations under us, they have no idea how many memories are built by having face-to-face interaction with the ones you love.

  • 4. amberjayd  |  March 30, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I agree that this problem is a generational thing. I just wonder how it will be when my children are in middle school/high school. Eek!

  • 5. mqm5176  |  April 2, 2011 at 4:54 am

    This entry reminds me of a recent incident with the child of a friend of mine. He received his child’s monthly bill and found that his son had sent 8,000 texts in a single month. Thankfully for him, he had an unlimited texting plan, but that is still an absolutely ridiculous number of texts. It seems that today’s youth seemingly carries entire conversations out via text messages and doesn’t make phone calls anymore.


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