Adolescents: Impact of Media and Internet

March 02, 2014

Adolescence is defined as a transitional period of preparation during which a child becomes an adult.

Adulthood is reached when a person has a stable independent role in society, not by a specific number of birthdays.

Adolescence starts with puberty, biological changes are at the forefront of the psychological changes, and once a child reaches ten to 12 years the surge in hormones promotes the change. Adolescents also have more power than before.

In marketing they are a segment of much interest as they have purchasing power, and this power extends to their homes and society. Media tends to validate their desire for adventure, risk taking and rebellion.

Parents struggle with having to explain decisions in detail, as their adolescents want to negotiate and understand. But with power also comes responsibility, and we also see adolescents engaging with causes and wanting to help the world.

Teenagers today are a multicultural group who enjoy learning about culture and meeting people from around the world.

They meet at the World Wide Web where they create virtual relationships that are, sometimes, as important as the relationships they create in their real world. They have friends all over the world always ready to chat or to engage in a game with them. Adolescents are adventurers and in the Internet they go everywhere.

Helping adolescents manage the Internet becomes an important task for parents today. The excessive amount of information available at their fingertips causes overload and confusion.

Learning how to handle the incredible power of this tool has become a new task for adolescents today, because it is a language in which they need to become proficient in order to improve their chances at school and in their career later on.

Proficiency comes with practice, but they need to practice with safety and balance. The risks of the Internet include: Exposure, persuasion, exploitation, deception victimisation, habituation and isolation. The first risks have to do with meeting others with safety in the Internet and the last two risks have to do with developing the ability to balance the time spent in the Internet.

Internet is another adolescent activity that needs to be monitored and discussed. Practicing cyber safety starts with the basics: Don’t share personal information or passwords online.

Another important guideline is to avoid saying or sending anything they would not do face-to-face. Parents must also discuss with their teens the perils of meeting people who they have met online. The next task is finding balance between real life and virtual life.

Although virtual life brings many satisfactions, it is important they take risks in their real life and do not impair their face-to-face communication.

Furthermore, adolescents need physical activity to grow. The Internet also provides an unparallel opportunity to share.

Sharing is one of the most rewarding human activities, being able to have people observe our growth and learn about who we are provides validation and promotes self-esteem. But, sometimes the limits of sharing are crossed and we over-share. Teenagers must develop limits in their sharing and value their privacy.

Finally, managing exposure is also important. It is believed we are having exposure to more images than ever before and this exposure has been related to issues in body image and in developing unrealistic expectations.

The adventurer adolescent needs his parents to provide him with safe limits within which he will grow, and nowadays these limits must include media and the Internet. The new adolescence comes with new tasks for parents, teachers and the whole society.