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Do teens suffer from an excess of access?


Today I want to talk about the gTrend called eCcessibility™. This trend is about the excess of access. Access that is too much, too soon, and too easily stumbled upon.

Today’s teens celebrate success of being completely tethered and having total access, but there’s a dark side to this universe. Technology opens up doors that can’t be closed, it opens them up to things they’re not quite ready for and don’t really want. Check out this anti-sexting ad from the UK.

In fact there’s data and evidence to suggest that excessive access via technology and social media has played a part in teen suicide, dating violence, teen gun violence, misogyny and more.

EXPOSURE TO BULLIES. Being bullied at school was always bad, but the internet opened the door for bullies to launch their attacks without facing their victims (and other classmates) in person and sometimes without revealing who they are at all, which has catapulted cyberbullying to the position of arguably the most talked about issue that tweens and teens face today.

According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, one out of every four teens has experienced cyberbullying and one out of every six has done it to others. Compared to traditional bullying, cyberbullying is particularly harmful as it can happen 24/7 and can reach a kid when they are alone (and feeling alone), which is why it has been linked to low self esteem, alcohol and drug use and suicide.

ACCESS AND EXPOSURE TO ADULTS. What’s popular in social apps right now? Anonymous apps that let people post and participate in secret. And although most claim to be “intended for adults,” actual controls for who joins and downloads are iffy and vague. So when teens are downloading these apps and browsing the contents, they’re connecting with adults and adult content. Despite age limitations teens make it to Tindr, for hooking up with people in your vicinity, or Whisper, for secret confessions. And there are new versions of online chat rooms that have been implicated in cases of sexual predators.

EXPOSURE TO SEX. There’s plenty of evidence pointing to the harm of early and over-exposure to sex. It has been linked to early sex, high risk sex, sexual addition and sexual violence.

Exposure and access to online porn is particularly worrisome and harmful. It can be sought out or inadvertently seen in any web search (try looking for the movie “Big” in an image search!) As observed from one psychologist’s perspective, the worry is that porn and access to online porn has changed expectations of what actual, realistic sex and intimacy should be.

And there is a potential slippery slope to more harmful behavior such as teen dating violence and sexual assault. According to the CDC, teens receive messages about how to behave in relationships from peers, adults in their lives, and the media, but all too often these examples suggest that violence in a relationship is okay.

EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE. Even darker are the increasingly violent images that we are all exposed to whether in movies, TV, violent videogames or even the evening news. Beheadings and even terrorist propaganda, easily stumbled upon by teens and can be taken to heart (remember the teen girls who attempted to go to Syria to join ISIS?).

COUNTERING eCCessibility. Some teens have responded to the dark side effect of too much access by organization and activism.

  • There are countless anti-cyberbullying campaigns like the one these high school students created
  • Students are taking on teen violence campaigns as school projects
  • And provides a platform for teen who want to creatively influence positive social change.

In the sprit of upcoming Episode 7, May the Force be with them.

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