Seven Fears and the Science of How Mobile Technologies May Be Influencing Adolescents in the Digital Age.
Close to 90% of U.S. adolescents now own or have access to a mobile phone, and they are using them frequently. Adolescents send and receive an average of over 60 text messages per day from their devices, and over 90% of adolescents now access the Internet from a mobile device at least occasionally. Many adults are asking how this constant connectivity is influencing adolescents' development. In this article, we examine seven commonly voiced fears about the influence of mobile technologies on adolescents' safety (e.g., cyberbullying and online solicitation), social development (e.g., peer relationships, parent-child relationships, and identity development), cognitive performance, and sleep. Three sets of findings emerge. First, with some notable exceptions (e.g., sleep disruption and new tools for bullying), most online behaviors and threats to well-being are mirrored in the offline world, such that offline factors predict negative online experiences and effects. Second, the effects of mobile technologies are not uniform, in that benefits appear to be conferred for some adolescents (e.g., skill building among shy adolescents), whereas risk is exacerbated among others (e.g., worsening existing mental health problems). Third, experimental and quasi-experimental studies that go beyond a reliance on self-reported information are required to understand how, for whom, and under what conditions adolescents' interactions with mobile technologies influence their still developing social relationships, brains, and bodies.
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