How Technology Influences The Way Teenagers Communicate

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As an early teenager, I remember having a Slide Phone with a Touch Screen to call and text my family and friends. Going into high school, my parents got me an iPhone where I could also interact with my friends through social media platforms. I remember downloading Instagram and Snapchat and just simply going on there a few times a day for fun. As a teenager, I liked using my phone to play games and take pictures, but always felt the need to limit my time on it and do other things. After interviewing Lily Douglas, a 17 year old teenage girl in high school, it seems that times have changed as technology has progressed. It is apparent that teenagers are communicating with one another in very different ways in comparison to how people used to.

Immediately, when I talked to Lily she made it evident that she is very reliant on her phone. On a scale of 1–10 ‘she gave herself a 9’ because it is her only way to engage and interact with her friends. After seeing her average screen time as seven hours during the week, and nine hours during the weekend, I could tell that technology takes up most of her day. Majority of that time spent on her phone is used on Snapchat, Tik Tok, and YouTube. According to Lily she says that “no one my age texts anymore, I use Snapchat to talk to all my friends (Douglas). I must say that the idea that texting is not a thing any more, is insanely crazy to me. It seems that teenagers are only communicating to each other by taking selfies or messaging over Snapchat. Lily allowed me to see how much she enjoys having a space where she can talk to her friends and post on her private stories. It also seems that technology has evolved and allowed for individuals to select a group of people in which they want to see their stories. It is interesting to know that Snapchat has improved and allowed people the ability to choose who views their posts, but at the same time has developed a space where teenagers can socialize with each other. From my personal experience on this app, I have used the privacy setting to remove people that I don’t want seeing my content, but never saw it as a private space to socialize with a group of people. I once heard Marshall Jones speak in a Ted Talk and say “we use Snapchat, iPads, without making eye contact”. From my conversation with Lily, it looks as if she is more comfortable communicating through a screen. Teenagers feel comfortable hiding behind screens while posting their whole life. They feel good when other people like and comment on their posts. It almost seems as if teenagers want to solve their problems over a screen rather than face-to-face.

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When I started talking to Lily about privacy, she had mentioned that she’s had some strangers contact her online. The few times she has been approached by a stranger, was on Snapchat. She had mentioned “that when she adds other people on the app, she doesn’t worry about accepting other teenagers requests, but gets uncomfortable when it’s a stranger who seems creepy” (Douglas). Looks as if teenagers are accepting people who they don’t know, and are okay with having open conversations without knowing anything about them. However when the stranger starts saying something that sounds creepy, then that’s when the teenager will feel the need to block them. Looking at Lily’s experience with strangers, it seems that it’s normal to add other people around the same age, but creepy when it is someone older. The frightening thing about teenagers being so comfortable with adding random people, is that they are exposing their identity. Lily has been lucky enough to not be hacked by someone else. She has done a good job of protecting her digital privacy and managing her accounts, but the question is are other teenagers doing the same? As you all can tell, teenagers have already changed the way in which they communicate to other people. Snapchat is just one example of how teenagers are connecting with people they don’t know and beginning to form relationships.

The pandemic has definitely changed the way teenagers use technology and communicate with one another. Home is now the place where students are doing most of their homework. Teenagers are having to go on zoom calls for class and doing all of their assignments on the computer. Lily relies on the internet to study and to submit assignments. She says that she uses “her school iPad and uses Schoology to do her homework”(Douglas). Today technology is essential in school work and necessary for students to connect with their professors. Looking at the amount of time that teenagers are using technology for school, plus the time they are spending on their phone for entertainment, I can only imagine that the average hours spent on technology is higher than an average of eight hours a day. Perhaps technology is truly changing the way we do things and communicate with one another.

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One last thing that was touched on when talking to Lily was the idea that digital media is a social activity. Lily specifically stated “I like to watch YouTube videos of Cody Ko and Kurtis Conner who are liberal boys that make funny videos”(Douglas). She gave a couple more examples of videos that she enjoyed watching on YouTube. What I found interesting is that a lot of the videos she watched were of young people who became famous by creating their own content. It seems as if teenagers are using digital media as an extracurricular hobby that often becomes a hit on media. Whether it is beauty videos, or advice about being a medium-sized girl, it is apparent that digital media can be very important in young people’s lives.

Technology continues to evolve and advance every day which is impacting the way people communicate with one another. Through the eyes of a teenager, I was able to see that technology is frequently used for education and entertainment. With that in mind, it is important to remind teenagers that they need to protect their identity as they download new apps and meet new people. Communication has changed so much, and we can see that most of it is taking place digitally. We need to remind ourselves that there is more in life then just staring at a screen and although most of the resources we need are online, we shouldn’t forget about the things and people off-line.

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Arianna Delmoral

Student-Athlete at the University of Minnesota majoring Business and Marketing Education