Inappropriate material of all kinds is readily available, intended or not: There have always been opportunities for our youth to engage in illicit affairs. But when the average young adult male accesses pornography 50 times a week, and pornographic web pages increased by 1,800% between 1998 and 2003, it is clear that our youth have never had so many opportunities to go wrong. It isn’t just what they get from the internet either. It is also what they text and send to each other. Try having an illicit conversation when the only phone available in the house was in the kitchen or living room, and texting was not an option.
Distractions are a touch screen away: Often concerns voiced regarding mobile devices focus on how they allow youth to do wrong. This issue focuses on what they enable youth to do, or not do, at all. What we are speaking of is the necessary aspects of their day, including homework, chores, hygiene practices, face-to-face socialization, eating meals, sleeping, and more. Again, youth have always found a way to distract themselves out of many things. But now, the distraction is something unbelievably more appealing than even the television, siblings, or any other diversion. Being interminably distracted is now the norm for our youth.
Opportunities for bullying and prolonged situations of shame and discomfort are magnified: There was a time when disagreements and bullying primarily occurred face to face, and only stayed around if people dictated this. But now that cyberbullying and internet posting of daily activities happen all the time, we can be guaranteed that disagreements, embarrassing events, and horrible encounters will always remain accessible, even when these same kids go on a date, apply for college, or seek out a job. It has always been somewhat challenging to remind teens that what they do now can influence their life later. But now that they can record and access it all from their phones, this fact has never been truer, even if they learn it too late.
Unintended entitlement results when everything is at their fingertips: We were all a little self-absorbed and naïve as teens (and to some degree, we still are), even before the technological age. At times, we were quick to believe that we knew and deserved all. Imagine what having an iPhone does with your teen? Now, suddenly your son or daughter becomes grand central station, information center, and a business office all wrapped into one. As the commercials would say, the world is in their hands, and they can do or have anything they want. The problem, of course, is that as someone once mused, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Opportunities to avoid addressing issues directly and appropriately abound: How many times growing up (and even now) did you desire to avoid the uncomfortable and exhausting conversations? How many times after they were over did you realize that they were really important to have? Well, with a mobile device in hand, we can be assured that our teens can avoid these conversations much more, and thereby have less practice in dealing with important matters face-to-face. Whether it is breaking up through texting or posting an angry, bitter message for many to see, or simply avoiding phone calls from “her”, it is clear that avoidance, or at least partial detachment, is the name of the game. And nothing makes it easier for a youth than a mobile device. No more worries that someone will call the house and have to talk to mom or dad, or leave a message on the machine for all to hear. Now your kids can really start to be in charge of their own lives, and keep defining what “conversation” and “privacy” means for our minors.