Technology: friend or foe?

Technology has brought forward brand new possibilities and a hope for the future. From medical advances to faster and simpler ways of communicating, the ever-changing technologies have been very beneficial. However, these developments have also brought forward many dangers. Technology negatively impacts the impressionable minds of young people and results in cyber bullying, social media dependency, and early sexualization.

With the somewhat recent invention of chat rooms, and other social networking applications, bullying has taken a new form. What was once a schoolyard problem is now one that follows many young people home. Cyber bullying may be a foreign word to anyone who did not grow up in the online world. But many cases of cyber bullying have made news headlines. The Webster Dictionary defines it as “The electronic posting of mean-spirited messages about a person.” One of the first cases to get media attention was Ryan Halligan’s suicide in 2003.

Halligan was only 13 years old when he hung himself in his bathroom. It was later learned that Halligan’s suicide was the result of cyber bullying. Halligan’s is just one of many cases of cyber bullying and though not every case ends as tragically as his, this issue is becoming much more frequent. The frequency of cyber bullying goes hand-in-hand with social media dependency. A recent study done by Media Technology Monitor, says that one-third of Canadians surveyed check social media every day, and of those 63 per cent are on Facebook.

In an article called ‘Social Media Dependency Has Become a Mental Health Issue’ Emma Stein interviewed Dr. Charles Sophy about this problem. Dr. Sophy is a psychiatrist and also the Medical Director for the Los-Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. “I’ve encountered many young children, as well as teenagers and adults who have become obsessed with social media, using it as a tool to guide their self-esteem and self-worth,” Dr. Sophy says. This article looks at one case specifically, that being Danny Bowman’s. Bowman, a 19 year-old from the U.K., became dependent on social media. Bowman told U.K.’s online Mirror that he relied so much on “likes” on his Facebook page that after failing to take the ‘perfect selfie’ he attempted suicide. Bowman is not the only young person struggling with social media dependency. Facebook, however, is not the only application affecting young people.

The cell-phone app Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos, allotting only ten seconds of time for the viewer to see. Young people may feel more comfortable sexting over Snapchat, as the chances of their pictures being spread are not likely, though it doesn’t eliminate the problem. Half of Snapchat’s user-base is between the ages of 13 and 17. This comes with legal risks as being underage creates the issue of child pornography. In 2013, ten boys were charged with possession and distribution of child pornography in Laval, Que. These charges were laid after a teacher caught one of the boys looking at explicit Snaps of a female student. Accompanying apps like Snapgrab, or even the screenshot feature on cell phones, allow pictures to be saved before the 10 seconds or otherwise allotted time runs up. Snapchat’s guidelines ask users to ‘keep it legal’ and warn those under 18 about sharing nude photos. Some teens may believe that sending photos that self-destruct is safe but many have not stopped to think of the possible negative outcomes.

On the surface many see only the positives of new technologies. However, each comes with its own negative outcomes. Cyber bullying now has the potential to break down the self-esteem of young people, as they rely on acceptance from the online realm. This dependency on a virtual reality for self-worth may create a tendency for some youth to feel only as important as their online peers believe them to be. As youth enter their teens, this longing for acceptance morphs into the urge to fit in sexually. Without self-regulation, teens can feel the repercussion of technology in many ways. Technology negatively impacts the impressionable minds of young people resulting in cyber bullying, social media dependency, and early sexualization. These problems may appear to be inevitable in this technology-driven society. Informing parents and teens of the dangers of technology may help t­­­o save lives. Though technologies today can find almost everything, self-worth is still one thing many young people search for. But looking online for this feeling only brings forward self-esteem issues. Unless this generation finds peace in self-regulation, this vicious cycle can only continue.


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Taylor Waines is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. When it comes to writing and reporting, she enjoys covering concerts, health concerns and student issues. She likes to spend her spare time writing, and drawing. Taylor hopes to continue feature writing following graduation.