Technology Expands--Not Shrinks-- in Our World

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People criticize teenagers for their overuse of technology -- for always looking at their phones, or computers, or televisions. People also say that the so-called “text-speak” that kids use is eroding their vocabularies. However, the biggest criticism of people my age is that personal relationships are being negatively affected by technology. My contention is that rather than limiting us, technology has opened doors and given us freedom and opportunity to connect with other people that older generations could never have imagined.

I think one of the reasons that young people sometimes prefer the internet and ‘virtual worlds’ is to escape the restricting guidelines people create for children’s protection. Even in a small suburban town, people become alarmed at the sight of something out of the ordinary, such as unfamiliar people on the street, unattended packages or backpacks. We’ve been told not to take anything from anyone – not just candy but food, rides and advice. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t make eye contact. Lock your doors. Leave no bags or items unattended. See something, say something.

Effectively, we’ve been told to trust no one.

As grade schoolers, we had to go everywhere with a parent or guardian. We weren’t allowed to walk to our friends’ houses, or the corner store, or to soccer practice alone. In high school, security guards roam the halls. Even in organized sports, kids have to follow often over the top equipment rules that make is almost scary to go out on the field.

At the same time, we were given a lot of freedom with technology. From a young age, kids are taught how to use technology. We learned how to use a computer and make PowerPoint and word documents before we learned how to write in cursive. Most of us got our first cell phones in sixth grade and were expected to check in with our parents constantly. By seventh grade, we began checking in with our friends constantly. How easy was it for a boy or girl who had been placed under strict “protective” rules for his or her entire life, to use technology as a way to branch out and be social?

The move to text messaging and eventually to social media sites seemed almost like a rite of passage, something we had earned. And it allowed us a freedom to expand our social networks even further. We could stay in touch with old camp friends, we could talk to people who had moved away and meet new friends through our friends using sites such as Facebook or MySpace. We could share our opinions on topics we may have never have talked about in our hometowns with people from across the country or across the world. People can now communicate from across the entire world instantly, which is something people even fifty years ago couldn’t even dream of.

Teenagers may rely on their cell phones a little too much at times when they could be talking to their friend face-to-face. We may play video and computer games too often rather than playing a pick-up game at the park. And sometimes we do let a ‘text-speak’ word or phrase slip out when another more descriptive word would be more appropriate. But the youth of America also uses technological resources like text messaging and the internet to expand our connection to other people, cultures, ideas and more.





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