A New Cyber World: Good or Bad?
by Brittni Waldron
With social media, cyber worlds, and the epidemic of texting on the rise, our youth is losing its grasp on reality. Parents need to be stricter with time limits on the Internet, and children still in grade school have no reason to be on a cell phone. We need to get back to old-fashioned person-to-person communication. Everything now is done virtually, whether through texting or in world cyber chats. When you ask a child or tween how many friends they have, they will come back with a response like 900 because that’s how many friends they have on Facebook and Xbox; this really is a problem. This topic really needs to be brought into light; children need to be taught how to interact with other people in person and not just over the Internet and through texting. There are children as young as four with cell phones who are getting caught texting in kindergarten. At that age what do these children have to be texting about? These same children are bringing laptops to school and, instead of wanting to go out for recess to run around and play and make up silly games, they want to be checking up on what’s going on in cyberspace. The grammar of this generation has also gone almost completely out the window. They are too caught up in the “LOLs” and the “K” instead of “okay” or “ok” and the “TTYL,” “BRB,” and “U” instead of “you.” Teachers see this all the time, and it truly is a problem that needs to be addressed. If you don’t know how to communicate, you cannot get anywhere in this world. Through this paper, I plan to bring to light all of what is really going on with our youth and what we can do to stop it and make things hopefully a bit better for everyone involved. We really need to stop and go back and teach out youth how to have a real person-to-person conversation and use proper manners again. We are moving at such a fast rate with technology and everything else, and we really need to keep our youth updated on technology, but they still need to have basic communication skills. When it comes to this generation going on a job or a college interview they are going to be lost. This generation has not been exposed to how they need to communicate with adults or even with their peers to just have a simple conversation.
According to a survey done by the Times Daily, “out of 700 youth aged 12–17 who participated in the phone survey, 60 percent say they don’t consider electronic communications—e-mail, instant messaging, mobile text—to be writing in the formal sense; 63 percent say it has no impact on the writing they do for school, and 64 percent report inadvertently using some form of shorthand common to electronic text, including emotions, incorrect grammar or punctuation.” So this implies that 64 precent of our youth is suffering from texting and has become too careless with their formal writing as a result. Texting is taking away the depth and attention to detail that our youth need to succeed in the business world. Texting has become the oxygen supply to the world. You see people texting while doing everything-shopping, eating, watching a movie, driving, and even falling asleep to it. To save our Generation Y and Xers, we need to go back to the drawing board and put a huge focus on making sure children know how to write properly. They need to understand the importance of communication to them in their future. A teacher in Los Angeles noticed that with passing each year, texting becomes more of the widespread thing to do; the spelling and writing seems to be so much worse. Also teens would just rather communicate via computer or over the Internet. They have more courage to ask for things like an extension on a deadline or something like that when they don’t have to be face-to-face. Once students finally find the courage to ask their teachers face-to-face however, they are much more reserved, shy, and have a hard time making eye contact.
Peter Greer stated, “Texting, with its own language, may spell the end of face-to-face socialization.” Remember the days when you got home from school and you spent the rest of your day out in your neighborhood playing with friends until your mother dragged you in or it was just too dark? I’m sure those are some of the greatest memories of your childhood. The youth today is so “plugged in” that their only childhood memories are going to be what they saw on a screen.
Is social media too much of a part of our lives? Have we forgotten how to really communicate? What would you do if all of the sudden we were all just disconnected? In an article entitled “Brains on Fire,” the author asks, “Would you run out of the house and just start talking to everyone you saw? Would you be on the phone all day and night trying to update everyone on your every thought? Would you drive around the city with a bullhorn and broadcast messages?” The big question in all of this, though, is would we have the real courage to do any of that? We are all so tough and confident when we are behind that screen, but when we have to talk to someone face-to-face are we going to have that same courage or will we become shy and more withdrawn, freeze up, and not know what to say? Communication skills are so crucial in our everyday lives, whether it be in the workplace, school, or just having a conversation with peers. If we continue to rely so much on virtual communication, at this rate we are going to lose the skills needed in everyday life to communicate. Dr. DeMartino a psychologist in Saratoga Springs, New York, was asked “Do you feel that through social media sites like Facebook and having Xbox accounts children have too many virtual friends but have lost the skills to make real ones?” and he said, “I’m not as worried about how many virtual friends someone has, it’s the quality of the face-to-face/non-cyber friends that is the healthy aspect. Kids who rely mainly on the Internet for social contact absolutely lose many of the social cue information necessary for healthy communication. Again, if it’s a supplement it’s fine, but if it’s the majority of ‘social life’ there may be a problem.” This tells us that as long as we are still practicing the face-to-face communication the virtual communication should not effect these teens as much.
Not only are these texting and cyber worlds taking a toll on children’s writing and social skills, but they are also affecting them mentally. About one half of teens are concerned about safety on the Internet and know of or have heard about someone who has been targeted, and one third of these teens had been targeted themselves. We need to be setting ground rules and teaching teens what is talking it too far and what is acceptable. MTV has come out with an iPhone application called Over the Line? With this app you can upload personal stories as well as read others about how social media and cyber bullying has affected them and then rate whether you feel it is over the line or not. With applications such as this it is we are teaching out you what is acceptable and what is not. Hopefully with this and the monitoring of parents we can get a better handle on this. It is important that parents encourage there teens to not share any personal information and passwords as well as not to get involved in any uncomfortable situations with adults or stranger and to never meet then in person. Ultimately all we can do is show our teen how to use technology in a safe way and monitor the ways they are. Dr. DeMartino was also asked, “Do you feel that this epidemic is the fault of parents?” and he said, “No, I think that social media, etc. are not parents fault but parents need to set limits and boundaries for proper use and misuse of the media.” Further proving that the only way we can get a handle on this is to make sure we are setting proper boundaries and rules for our teens to fallow so they can use technology safely and smartly.
It has become apparent that social media and the epidemic of texting and cyber worlds are not things we will ever be able to get rid of, however, we can see the effects that they are having on our youth, physically, socially, behaviorally, and mentally. To try and ensure a good future for these generations and generations to come, we need to make sure to take a stand and educate them on the importance of real face-to-face communication, formal writing, and not text shorthand, and that everything that is said over the Internet is not reality. Dr. DeMartino said, “Social media are here to stay. But I do think we have to be careful and make sure that kids use the technology responsibly (i.e., ethically!) and with reasonable limits. I think that social media and technology access can be a strong plus for people if we’re careful.” We need to get back to person-to-person communication to ensure a safe and healthy future for our youth. Well, that’s all for now. TTYL.