Thursday, November 20, 2008

Growing Up Online

“Growing up online” explores the lives of today’s teens – the first generation to grow up completely dependent on the internet. While my generation was growing up, the internet was still evolving. While my friends and I are rather internet savvy, today’s teens surpass us in their knowledge of the web and dependency on its features.

Teens today spend hours on the internet, glued to their keyboard. Marketers are aware of their growing addiction and have constructed ways to personalize advertising on the web to appeal on the individual level. Cookies in one’s computer records the sites you visit. From those, advertisers know what you are or may also be interested in. MySpace is one of the more popular social networking sites. With it, users can create an entirely personal account, deciding what their name will be, what their photos look like, which features they wish to add, and who their friends are. In addition, marketers have enmeshed advertising banners and logos on the MySpace page. Some are for all users to view, while others are personalized to that individual. By seeing items that they desire, teens are roped in even more into their online lifestyle. Advergaming is a technique that advertises through video games. Throughout time teens have always been the target audience of advertisers. They are fully submerged in pop culture and entertainment and drive “the next big thing.” This is why marketers spend so much time trying to see how they can capture their attention when they are spending so much time getting lost in the World Wide Web.

The report in “Growing up Online” did not surprise me. The teens featured in this video remind me of myself when I was their age. Web 2.0 features had not caught on yet, but I clearly remember spending hours, much to my parent’s dismay, on different websites and AOL Instant Messenger. Parents do not understand this addiction because they did not grow up this way. They worry that their children are diving too deep into the world of the Internet and not protecting themselves against its dangers. One interesting point made in “Growing up Online” was that teens are not in fact the victims of online predators, but are participants. When surveyed, an overwhelming majority of teens were aware of who to stay away from when online. When teens participate in activities that put them in a position of risk, it is often because they consciously chose it. The internet is no longer a new and scary place. Those who grow up using it may be addicted to their computer; however, they know it so well that they know their boundaries as well.

Although I have never used MySpace, my friends in college and I all actively use Facebook, another equally as addicting social networking site. I agree with the teens when they say that they use MySpace to create a personal online life that is entirely for them. They do not want their parents to intrude, not because they are engaging in questionable actions, but because it is invading their personal space. Teens especially need an outlet. I remember being an awkward 14 or 15 year old, and it’s a period where you constantly question yourself, your identity, and who your friends truly are. While “Growing up Online” featured some of the downsides of creating MySpace accounts, it should be noted that many introverts have found solace by being able to express themselves online when they cannot in high school.

I do worry that the increased use of the internet will lead to society losing touch with key interpersonal skills. The important thing to remember is that as more and more generations grow up using the internet, there will be more regulations and parents will become more informed. When my generation has children, we will already know the ins and outs of the internet and how to teach our children to use it wisely. Even though the internet is becoming an increasingly significant part of teens’ everyday lives, I do not believe it is a trend that will continue into their future. It is easy for teens to become completely absorbed in the internet and obsess over its many features because they have minimal responsibilities. It is only natural that as teens mature their addiction will subside.

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