In almost any aspect of modern life on this planet, almost everything revolves around technology. From the cars you drive to work to the phones buzzing in your pocket to the laptop I’m typing this on now, almost everything is driven by technology. It’s a beautiful prospect, and also a scary one, but one we simply cannot avoid. It’s impossible, and even attempting it is impossible. From the spears of an untouched tribe to the wheels on a Mormon cart, we’re all affected by it. One demographic, arguably, more so than others—the teenager.
I’m in a lucky, weird position in my life. I’m the final bridge between the "book in bed" era and the "phone in bed" epidemic. I’m the final frontier of the mobile phones with antennas and the phones that are often more powerful than computers. I am part of the generation that states they would rather have their phone in their hands than meet new people outside. That concerns me, but also, it humbles me. Social media is creating an unsocial world, but at the same time, technology is pushing more and more young people into its world. From Zuckerberg and his creation of Facebook to Lord Alan Sugar and his invention of the household computer, young people are shaping our technological future.
In this article, I’ll explore different aspects of technology and how I as a young person view them—from a young person’s perspective. Minus the filtering and bitchiness of social media, and yep, including a segment dedicated to the momentous rise of the Pokémon Go App.
In line with expectations, education has always been shaped by technological advances. In the 17th century, lessons were solely book and lecture based, heavily influenced by religious readings and beliefs. Come the early 20th century, education was seen as a masculine, upper-class construct. The late 20th century saw gender equality, education reforms in way of the lessons taught, and the gradual implementation of such reforms. In today’s 21st century society, education is almost wholly dominated by technology with computers and internet networking across multiple campuses, integration of mobile phones into lesson subjects, seamlessly and even "modern" and "future" technologies such as Virtual Reality headsets, and the use of livestreaming in lectures to connect innovators with students from across the world. It’s a golden age, undeniably, for educational advances. However, some critics still argue certain points.
One such point centers around the fact that increased technology detracts from the "core" messages and teachings of education, acting as a distraction and a blanket for learning. Despite this concern, supporters of the technological advancements in education for young people suggest it does the opposite—instead of encapsulating the educational abilities of a student, they say that technology instead broadens the opportunities available. In my opinion, this is beyond true. I would rather sit in today’s education system of technology and quality teaching than the strict formalities of textbook work all day. It keeps young people engaged, excited, and willing to participate in our educational pathways.
Technology also allows for a much wider reach for education—perhaps a professor wants to deliver a lecture to students in Taiwan, or pupils need to conduct independent research on a project through the internet and interactions with others around the world. Without a gradually bettering grasp on technological instruments, none of this would be possible on the scale it is today.
It isn’t even just limited to the basic computer or phone; Wind turbines can produce energy for poorer schools, the integration of technology and architecture can allow more pupils to access certain education, and bettered disability innovations would allow anyone to teach and learn, regardless of their physical or mental state. There truly are no limitations, nor should there be, when considering the future minds of this planet.
Prior to the technology boom of the 21st century, the discussion regarding teens and sexuality was taboo—incredibly taboo. So much so that, before smartphones and PornHub existed, sexual education in school was “boys and girls make babies, use protection,” and the mortified and confused children were thrown into the devil's den. That’s it (even as a late 90s child, I was taught that), and that’s a destructive message to give.
Since the innovation of smartphones, pornography and message boards, social media and YouTube vlogs, sexuality has been a flourishing and popular theme for young people. Social media websites such as Tumblr allow young people to express themselves, but to also connect with others similar to them. Whether you identify as straight, gay, lesbian, transgender, non-binary, and/or anything in between, someone else identifies as the same. Of course, this has its rainclouds—it has opened up space for "gendered" bullying or misinformation to spread, and targeting of certain social groups, such as the attack on the Brony Convention in 2014 that hospitalized 19. However, despite the negatives this can bring, too many golden points have arisen to ignore; Gay Pride, internet recognition from some of the highest places (Facebook, Twitter, The Obama Administration and Netflix to name a few), as well as unifying those who otherwise felt isolated.
Away from social media, the prominence of pornography among young people has only risen. Now that porn sites are often only three clicks away at any one point, more teens than ever are watching—both intentionally and unintentionally. Is this a bad thing? Well, that’s a matter of perspective. On one hand, sexologists suggest that in moderation porn can be a useful, enjoyable and beneficial experience within a sexual relationship, or even to maintain a heightened level of personal health—masturbation does in fact reduce the chances of prostate cancer in men. Despite this, critics argue that it only acts as a "slippery slope," and that the “impressionable minds” of young people can easily allow for addiction to occur—and pornography addiction is a real thing with real negative impacts, including low libido, reduced sexual function, and damaged sexual organs (yes, you can masturbate too much!). However, this is fairly rare amongst young people, and with the right amount of self-moderation and willpower, the consumption of porn can potentially lead to a healthy sexual life. Without the advances of technology, notably the smartphone that can fit in one hand, this free-access information would be considerably harder to obtain.
I really couldn’t write an article based on teenagers and technology without throwing the gigantic factor of gaming in there. Once an underground "nerdy" activity, gaming has now taken over the world. From the multi-million dollar championships of gaming Gods such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft to the revolutionary Pokémon Go, gaming has taken over young lives and older ones alike. Why? The list is endless, but I like to acknowledge the unity it brings as a starting point. Take the newest, and biggest ever smartphone game release, Pokémon Go; Its release encouraged people of all ages to exercise, to engage with strangers with a common interest, and to explore the more beautiful, unknown areas of their community. That’s a revolution, that’s a technological break-through.
Is it constructive? Well, like the porn factor, in moderation it absolutely is. Games can solidify cognitive functions better than other methods—fast-paced shooters boost reaction times, strategic games like FIFA build decision-making, and games such as Pokémon Go and the albeit shite-but-fun Kinect gave a fun platform for exercise to be conducted. As technology advances, so too do games. We’ve gone from the 64-bit Donkey Kong jolting across a chunky screen to virtual reality creatures hovering in our cereal bowls. The future is exciting, not only for entertainment, but for personal advances.
As a young person in today’s society, I truly appreciate technology. Not in a cliché “I couldn’t live without my phone” way, but in the way that I admire the changes it has made to society. From seeing communities bond over a revolutionary phone app to being able to connect with friends across the planet, technology and its ever-expanding advancements continues to inspire and enthrall me. We are the generation most branded “lazy” and “uninspired,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth—we are the ones that will push the current technology to its furthest limits. We are the ones that are enjoying life, and also bettering it. As a young person in today’s society, I’m humbled to be living in such an advanced culture of innovation, excitement and change. And so should you.