There are basically three things that brought human beings to the age of wireless technology: first, human beings are proven to have intelligence far above any other creature on earth; second, humans has never been satisfied of what they have so they continue to discover and invent new things and lastly, men seem to have the natural tendency to look for ways to make things better and easier from the simplest to the most complicated things they do. For these reasons, mobile phones were born in place of telephones. Typewriters are replaced by desktop computers, then by laptops and notebooks and palmtops. From paper and pen come the e-mails and web cam communication channels. After the traditional face to face personal interactions, there are teleconferencing, i-chat and instant messaging.
Like all others, communication technology has brought major changes on major aspects of human lives-both advantages and disadvantages. The social, cultural and cognitive aspects of the lives of the people have been greatly influenced by these communication technologies. This paper aims to present both the positive and negative effects of communication technology particularly the wide use of internet and mobile phones and how these have either improved or ruined their lives. This paper focuses on the effects of these communication gadgets on the sociolinguistic lives on the American youth.
THE EFFECTS ON SOCIAL SKILLS OF THE AMERICAN YOUTH
- ADVANTAGES ON THE SOCIAL SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
There are two obvious benefits that the Internet Age and the Mobile Technology have brought the youth of today: a faster, easier way of getting in touch with almost everyone in the world and the fact that the use of web cam, e-mails and text messaging have opened the door for the youth to socially interact with the other youths of different cultures around the world. The presence of computers has enables the youth to learn how to communicate and exchange ideas with the others of the same interests like music, arts and crafts and even current events. Through the use of broadband technology, children are able to interact with their relatives and friends who are far from home. Children are able to meet other people and make friends without paper and pen to say what they have in mind. These benefits are undeniably hardly possible if not impossible without the internet.
In America, where most children are familiar with the use of the internet, the youth are given the access to express themselves through their own blogs and learning things by browsing other’s WebPages. At the same time, this internet accessibility enhances their creativity as evidenced by their ability and skills in creating their own blogs and web mails. “The network actually aids in developing the communication skills of children who are shy and are not quite accepted by their peers for various reasons.” (E. Hargittai) Being a part of the Online Community has been the confidence booster of the youths who either cannot, do not and afraid to get out of their houses to interact with the unfriendly children next door and in school. The internet has somehow given the youth an alternative and another way of making friends and expressing themselves. The internet has opened the door for the youth to interact with others aside from their school and neighborhood buddies. As they say, “on the internet, nobody knows that you are a dog”, which means anyone is welcome on the Online Community regardless of who is on the other line.
On the other hand, the widely accepted use of the mobile phones by children and the youth has been advantageous to the social development of its users. Mobile phones give the users the opportunity to extend simple and easy means of helping each other. Children can afford to send text messages to friends and loves ones to ask for a simple favor or get help. Mobile phones enable youngsters to exchange information and ideas almost anywhere, where landlines have no access. They can always say “thank you” and “good luck” even without reaching for the telephone at home. The youths can always boost each other’s morale by simply sending text message of, “you can make it” even their loved ones are thousands of miles away from them. Seeking and extending support are just a text away, whenever and wherever they are. Text messaging also helps in decreasing worries for both the parents and their children when they are not with each other. Each can easily send text messages to inform each other how they are doing. With the use of text messages, children’s social and emotional growths are enhanced by simple text messages sent and received by each other. Strengthening relationships are possible with the use mobile phones as one effective communication tool.
- DISADVANTAGES ON SOCIAL SKILL DEVELOPMENT OF THE YOUTH
As mentioned, communication technology has brought not only benefits to the social lives of the youth but also alarming negative effects. Because cyberspace provides easier communication method, the youth of today seem to have placed their reliance on electronic form of communication in expressing themselves. Because creating Event Tool is possible with the use of the internet, “less people bother to call their friends and relatives to attend their parties.” (A. Wilborn) The accessibility of the internet to the youth has deprived them of improving their personal communication skills by talking to people face to face. The internet has become the messenger of most youngsters in the sense that they prefer to use emails and instant messaging rather than personally exchanging thoughts and expressing their feelings to others.
The internet has developed the youth into “communication cowards” who refused and were not able to learn the proper interpersonal interaction. “Just as the legs of a paralysis victim weaken and wither, thus do the verbal and presentational skills of those who neglect to exercise them.” (M. Motz) The long hours spent by the children on front of the computers decreases their opportunity to personally learn how to deal with the other children which is learn through playing with them, laughing and telling stories with them. Instead of spending quality time with the family during dinners and weekends free times, children prefer to stay in front of their computers to browse the internet and access Friendster.com, Facebook.com and MySpace.com. The youth find it more lovely and interesting to chat with strangers than the family members.
Undoubtedly, the internet has been more of disadvantage to the youth than of a benefit, in terms of their social growth. The internet has both widened and limited their world. It has widened because they are able to connect with other people almost anytime around the world. It has limited because it seem to have created a wall between the youth and their own families and loves by stealing so much of their time and attention towards the wireless society.
Text messaging through mobile phones has placed too much worry for both the parents and the community because of the fact that it has become like a cancer that has little by little killing the youth’s social culture. The wide use of mobile phones has taught children to text and not to talk. Text messaging has taught children the undesirable attitude of cheating, stalking, lascivious acts without the knowledge of the parents and other forms of violence. There have been countless reported incidents of examination cheatings at schools using mobile phones. The widespread cheating practice has been one of the reasons why the government has proposed to ban cell phones at schools. Aside from the fact that ring tones and alerts disrupts the classroom set up and the students’ attention during classes, the use of mobile phones also has deprived the youth of learning how to respect teachers and how to behave properly inside the classroom and the school premises.
In terms of relationships, text messaging has taught youth to improperly handle relationships. A study revealed that one in four teens reported being text messaged by a boyfriend or girlfriend at least hourly between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. (Teenage Research Unlimited) This way, text messaging has become a tool for the other party in controlling and monitoring the life of the other which eventually bring a distasteful relationship status.
In another study by a private company called NOP, 20% of the youth respondents admitted to have either rejected and broke with someone else through text messaging. (A. Wilborn) A report published at Infozine on February 09, 2007 has found the same facts and has concluded that cell phones, e-mails and internet, which are popular among youth has “put them at a high risk for dating abuse and violence.” The simple analysis of these facts and figures will bring us to the fact that because text messaging has hindered these youths in communicating personally with their partners. A personal exchange of opinions and a chance for each party to explain and hear their sides have been taken out of them because they feel that text messages will do the rest of the process.
EFFECTS ON THE ORAL AND WRITTEN COMMUNICATION SKILLS
- ADVANTAGES ON THE YOUTH’S COMMUNICATION SKILLS
Internet and text messaging also have several proven advantages to the development of the youth’s communication skills. There were studies which conclude that “pupils who send regular text messages may not be at risk of becoming poor readers and writers.” (BBC News) The researchers reported that those who frequently send text messages were identified as strong readers and writers. Another report by the University of Toronto found that text messaging “gives people a strong command of grammar.” (Sci-Tech Today, 2006) A linguistics professor at the said University even commented that, “cell phone texting and chatroom-speak are an expansive linguistic renaissance.” (S. Tagliamonte)
Communication done over the web somehow contributes to the development of the children’s ability to speak to others, even to those whom they have not personally met. Through the internet, they are given almost unlimited and easy access to different sources of information. They can learn many things on different areas even outside the classroom set up. Through web communication, children can start exchanging information and sharing their thoughts to others especially to those who have the same interests as they are.
- DISADVANTAGES ON THE YOUTH’S COMMUNICATION SKILLS
A Study by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association in June 2001 revealed that “wireless phone users sent 30 million text messages in the United States alone.” (The USA Today, 2003) The same study said that the figure increased to 1 billion in 2002. A New York-based private firm called Upoc has also conducted its own study in 2001 and has found that “43% of cellular phone users age 12 to 17 used text messaging, while 25% for those of those aged 30 to 34. Teenagers have developed some sort of “text language” in the form of shorthand words and phrases they incorporate in their communication. The use of “BTW” has been understood by users to mean “by the way” and “B4” to be read as “before”, “SOL” for “sooner or later” and “PXT” to mean “please explain that.” By these, text messaging makes it obvious that it contributes a lot in developing the youth into lazy creatures.
These facts bring the linguists into worries of having the linguistic abilities of the youth into deterioration. “The proliferation of text messaging will enforce sloppy, undisciplined habits of the American youth.” (D. Hauck) This is true to the fact that the use of the short cuts for words in sending messages will somehow deprive the youths in practicing their communication skills. Later, they will have to misspell certain words when asked to write them down the proper and formal way. “As more people use the lingo of text messaging, it is more likely to spill into speech and writing.” (N.Baron) Because text messaging requires messages to be as short as possible, that is for quick typing, users are can no more practice how to make good sentences and practice their grammars. Somehow, with excessive use of this form of communication, the youth will be used to it and then will then be contributors to the 2% NOP polls respondents who make used of work notifications by text messages. Sooner, they will be employees and employers who will be fired and fire someone in his job by text message as in the case of Katy Tanner in August 2006. (A. Barlett)
The world has evidently gone a long way in its communication technology. With the presence of Internet and Mobile Phones, there is almost unlimited access of the means of communicating across the world by the youngsters and almost all people of all ages. Web communication made communication with other people that are thousands of miles away not just possible but easy. Expressing oneself, seeking and extending help and information are no more a hard and complicated with the use of text messaging. These communication media have also brought bad effects to the social and cognitive development of the youths especially on the areas of communication skills development. Excessive use of the emails, web-speak communication and text messaging somehow limits their practice of personal interaction with other people. More and more youths prefer to use these mediums to access information rather than browsing books and personally visiting learning sites. With these, we can conclude that the effects of modern communication technology are personal, that is, it depends on how the user allows these media of communication influence his social and communication skills. It depends on how limited and excessive the youth of today make use of the media that determines if it will improve or ruin their lives. What is best to do now is for parents and guardians to keeping their eyes and attention to how these technologies take much of their lives.
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