Hudson Valley Parent

October 2013

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Running scared of the new technology PART 2 OF A 2 PART SERIES L ast month I rethoughts and feelings lated some of the than they would in faceissues pertaining to-face communication. to the new technologies Adolescents can practice available to children and and rehearse social interadolescents with special action in these chat rooms attention to the Internet. or blogs, thereby gaining There are numerous confidence for social benefits technology has interactions outside of the provided to both children Internet. and adolescents; this is There is some compelespecially true in the area ling research evidence Child of education and comthat communicating on Behavior munication. Among the the Internet is beneficial obvious benefits for the to kids who experience educational use of the Internet is the shyness or are socially awkward. ease of obtaining a wealth of inforThe Internet allows these adolesmation, literally at the adolescent's cents to practice social skills without or child's fingertips, including text, the anxiety that face-to-face intersound and video. action brings them. This Internet communication can also allow marThe Internet as a ginal adolescents to feel a sense of social environment connection to other teens, who may The Internet is also a significantly share similar problems or concerns. important social environment for An additional benefit is that the today's adolescent, and even youngInternet allows kids to belong to a er children are exploring social number of "Internet communities" of communication via cyberspace. like-minded teens around the world Socialization in adolescence contrib- who share similar interests, conutes dramatically to the issues that cerns, or hobbies they might not find impact their well-being throughout in their immediate neighborhoods. this developmental period. Issues of identity formation, self-esteem, and Potential risks sexuality are now explored in the of anonymity virtual world of cyberspace. Although sensationalized headPotential benefits lines have exaggerated the risks of anonymity associated with Internet use, and The knowledge adolescents and have increased parental concerns, children now have at their fingertips there are caveats for Internet use gives them the potential to be the that parents of adolescents need to best-informed generation in history. be aware of. The Internet also allows youth to Due to the ease of accessibility communicate with other adolescents and its interactive nature, the Interabout these emotionally-sensitive net can be a powerful tool of abuse. topics in a forum-type setting. Adolescents have the freedom to The anonymity the Internet communicate with anyone they provides often allows kids to speak choose and literally post anything more freely and honestly about their they wish. Often anonymous com- PAUL SCHWARTZ 8 Hudson Valley Parent n October 2013 "Adolescents and children now have knowledge at their fingertips that gives them the potential to be the best-informed generation in history" munications in chat rooms, blogs or through instant messaging send an adolescent an unwarranted and unwanted offer for sexual activity. The majority of teens have reported communicating with someone on the Internet that they have never met or don't know at all. As many adolescents have also reported using "fake" identity information, the risk of an adolescent communicating with a person masking their true identity is a real danger. There are also inadvertent dangers on the Internet. An adolescent looking for school information may be sent to a site with explicit sexual information. Frequently an innocuous search word will bring up one of the thousands of pornographic websites presenting images and information that can confuse a child or adolescent's idea about sexuality and relationships. Learning unhealthy behavior The Internet can also direct an adolescent to sites that reinforce and support unhealthy behavior. There are web sites that provide information on how to hide an eating disorder or self-injurious behavior such as "cutting" from your parents, as well as sites on drug use and drug-use devices. There are also hundreds of

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