For those of you who don’t know, it’s the year 2015. There is quite a bit of technology out there. It would even seem that there has been an incredible technological boom in the last 20 years.
I remember when the first iPhone came out—I was positive that it would flop. I was in the 8th grade and remember thinking that there is no way a phone could be a touch screen. How naïve I was… Since then, I have frequently been surprised by the progress of technology.
MIT’s publishes an annual technological review detailing the headliners of that year’s innovations. It’s important to note that not all of the products are available. For some of these, it’s only the major groundwork that has been laid. But that is not a small thing! I mean, this year the list includes Magic Leap (a device that can make virtual objects appear in real life), car-to-car communication, Liquid Biopsy (a blood test to catch cancer early), and Megascale Desalination (a cost-effective way of desalinating seawater to make it potable… available now).  More information on these and the full list can be found here.
Needless to say, there has been a lot going on! So many positive things. But then we enter The War. With so much technology and opportunities, it seems that we have a whole new generation that has grown up with these items. They know how to operate them with ease. I was surprised when I heard a friend’s three-year-old learned how to run the DVD player! Yet, I judge my parents for their inability to handle their technology. It seems that it largely comes down to our exposure.
But that’s just it: The War focuses largely on exposure. Just what is too much? And at the heart of it all, is technology and social media good or bad?
If you ask the average mother in the grocery store, she might share something about how her precious son is now a zombified shell of what he used to be. Or she may share that without that stupid movie Frozen, she would have lost her sanity ages ago to her toddler.
Again, it would seem that there are positives and negatives. So, how do we sift through them?
The Pros: Self-esteem, communication
In an article for CNN, Kelly Wallace discusses “The Upside of Selfies.” She reveals that there seems to be a larger positive effect of social media on self-esteem than negative. Wallace reports the findings on a study of social media stating that, “in the survey of more than 1,000 13-to 17-year olds about how they view their digital lives, 28% said social networking made them feel more outgoing versus 5% who said it made them feel less so.”  Simply put, your child’s Facebook account may actually help improve their self-esteem. You don’t hear about that much in the news, do you. No. Instead, the news is comprised of story after story regarding cyber bullying and its effects. Yes, this particular form of bullying is crushingly painful—a child can’t escape it as easily as walking home. However, I think it’s important that we embrace the positive qualities of social media. If not for any other reason, than just to let our kids feel a little better about themselves.
Back to cyber bullying. With the increased use of social media, we also have children who are “getting online” at younger and younger ages. The parenting decisions involved in that are irrelevant here except to say that perhaps the best way to mitigate the dangers of cyber bullying is raising a healthy and aware child. The internet is not going away. It really isn’t, sorry, Grandma. I believe that just as we teach children how to handle bullying in the classroom or schoolyard, we also need to incorporate lessons regarding social media.
Perhaps it’s time for a little comic relief. Check out the interview comedian Mark Malkoff conducts asking school-children about social media:
A 2013 study conducted by Micah O. Mazurek found that adults diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders who use social media are more likely to have close friends.  Looking closer, adults with ASD are known to struggle with interpersonal relationships; the social skills we came by honestly generally have to be consciously learned. Screen technology offers the opportunity to communicate with other individuals without having to interpret that non-verbal communication that proves so difficult.
But, think about the bigger picture! Social media can help your child. Again, there is the risk of cyber bullying, but there is also the empirically supported idea that social media helps those with ASD develop and maintain relationships. However, there is still a need to research the interaction between online and offline relationships.
The Cons: Brain Chemistry, cyber-bullying
So, you child appears to be addicted to his/her phone. He/she can’t seem to break eye contact with their screen long enough for a conversation. There’s now a diagnosis for that: Internet Addiction Disorder. I am not kidding you. You’re welcome. A Chinese study found that those brains addicted to the internet respond the same exact way as those addicted to other substances.  Wow!
A pill popper obviously consumes a pill then receives a high. Someone with IAD gets their high from checking media, email, or what-have-you. This one is an attention thing. A person becomes addicted to the tension release associate with having been paid attention. It’s psychology 101.
I’ve discussed addicts before. Once again I will say, addiction sucks. I’m guessing that someone experiences these compulsive acts are suffering just as I did. And their families aren’t too happy, just as mine wasn’t.
Additionally, I mentioned cyber-bullying. It’s nasty. I mean, bullying in general is nasty. But to me, there is something about being bullied in a space that is supposed to be separate from the school yard. Five thousand 15-24 year old kids commit suicide each year. That’s just the statistics of successful suicides—it doesn’t even touch on the attempts. A British study found that at least half of juvenile suicides are connected to bullying.  Just to add to it: 42% of teens with access report experiencing cyber-bullying each year.  Scary.
I could go on to further discuss cyber-bullying, but I don’t think it’s necessary. There are plenty of resources out there (and online!) for you to read if you want more information. Personally, I think it’s starting to become a well discussed topic because it greatly impacts our kids. Parents generally want happy, healthy kids. Monitoring their internet use and their demeanor are part of the package.
The Big Picture: what’s awesome & sucky
The Awesome: The internet is always available! You don’t have to wait until business hours to get the information, so much information, you need. And work—you can continue that at home if you want to, too! Finally, my personal favorite: it’s so easy to contact people. I am able to connect with friends and family from the present and the past. It’s wonderful
The Sucky: There is always danger in life. In every area, there is something to worry about. The internet is no different. The internet facilities all sort of illegal activity. You can coordinate drug and human trafficking. You can purchase things you probably shouldn’t have (but that’s not illegal). But you can also find some disgusting things to fix whatever disgusting urges you have (child porn, etc.). And there is the cyber-bullying.
All in all, I guess I feel a little defensive of the internet. For the last few years, all I’ve heard is about how the internet and technology is destroying today’s youth. I hardly think this is the case. With advances in any aspect of human life, there are risks. That’s how it goes. Yes! Your kid could be completely overcome by the internet, but no one ever said that teens have good judgment. In fact, all the evidence says the opposite: their frontal lobes aren’t finished forming. They are physically incapable of making good decisions. Instead of bashing technology, maybe it’s time to step up and teach others how to be responsible? I don’t know. That’s just what I think.
My personal motto is that there are some things that are best said in person. There are some things that you just don’t need to comment on or add to the chaos. Some people just like creating fires and watching them burn. There are also some things that I should probably keep to myself… so I do. Most of the time.
It’s easy to find the bad in anything. I believe that it is best to acknowledge the negative, but look to the best.
Now, I have to confess. I didn’t start this blog for fun. I didn’t. A college course I was enrolled in required some sort of relationship with the internet. I WILL say that having a blog is something I have dreamed of doing. Bucket List: CHECK!
Personally, the internet makes me a little paranoid. The idea that you can google my name and come up with an entire resume of information is scary. But then again, I also consider myself to be relatively good at handling my online presence. I love sharing my thoughts and ideas, I do! With great power comes great responsibility, right? So, maybe when it comes to being online, people need to get a little smarter.
Once again, that’s not to say that there aren’t positive aspects of an online presence– there are! I mentioned the benefits to self-esteem via “selfies.” I would be remisced to say that that is the only opportunity to feel better about yourself. I mean—my blog! I get notifications when someone “likes” or “follows” or “comments” on a post. I assure you that the warm-fuzzies that accompany these messages are just as good, if not better, than when I receive positive feedback from a Facebook “selfie.”
It all comes down to you, obviously. What do you think of the internet? The good and the bad. But, more importantly, how do you compose yourself online? Think about it.
 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2015 | MIT Technology Review. (2015, February 18). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from http://www.technologyreview.com/lists/technologies/2015/
 Social media positive for teens? Maybe! – CNN.com. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/21/living/social-media-positives-teens-parents/
 What Kids REALLY Think About Social Media. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nceDhoXKLKk
 Mazurek, M. (n.d.). Social media use among adults with autism spectrum disorders. Computers in Human Behavior, 1709-1714.
 How Facebook (FB) is Altering Your Mind… – David Rainoshek. (2015, November 13). Retrieved December 13, 2015, from https://medium.com/david-rainoshek/how-facebook-fb-is-altering-your-mind-8a16b16b6d91#.kb7es6yh8
 Cyberbullying Rampant on the Internet. (n.d.). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from http://www.cyberbullyhotline.com/07-10-12-scourge.html
 Bullying Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 10, 2015, from http://www.bullyingstatistics.org/content/bullying-and-suicide.html