Teenagers, internet and new technologies: a new wonderland?
This article reviews the positive sides and the risks associated with the use of new technologies. Among the positive aspects are quick access to information of an educational nature, the possibility of social or intellectual exchanges, and openness to information in the field of health, drugs or sexuality.
Threats relate to inexperience and difficulty in judging the validity of information, or the risk that young people take by disseminating information on the web. Internet addiction and the risk of violence are probably overstated.
Open and interactive monitoring by parents is good prevention. Investigating the relationship that each young patient has with these tools is an integral part of any health check-up.
The degree to which new technologies will influence our existence in the future is still uncertain, but it is already possible to draw some lessons from currently discernible trends.
In the brief review that follows, the potential impact of new technologies in education and health will first be discussed. Secondly, we will examine the risks associated with the use of the Internet by adolescents. We will end with some considerations in the field of prevention.
Teenagers are major users of new tools such as the mobile phone , portable digital readers and other tools offering the opportunity to access the Internet with just one click. Note that teenagers tend to become familiar with all these instruments much faster than adults.
In fact, the current teenage generation was born long after the first computers and for the majority after the invention of the World Wide Web (1989) and its diffusion. At the same time, you should know that this new industry targets this segment of the population in a very effective way and sometimes even exploits it in a shameless way.
Teenagers in all parts of the world have largely integrated these new technologies into their daily lives. According to the most recent statistics from the Federal Statistical Office, 91% of young people aged between fourteen and nineteen living in Switzerland use the Internet several times a week.
This craze quickly spread on both sides of the Atlantic, although it seems to be even more important in Asian societies, as evidenced by the number of scientific articles on this subject from countries such as Japan and Korea.
Nor should the opportunity presented by wireless communications in low- and middle-income countries be underestimated.
In various African countries, young people, but also adults, have immediately switched to using mobile phones or Wi-Fi (high-speed wireless Internet network) without having to spend on cables and installations necessary for the traditional operation of radio, television or telephone.
This immediate access to planetary information represents for these countries, and in particular for their teenagers, a potential for development that is still difficult to measure.
A number of African countries have understood this and are now taking advantage of it. For example, processes for monitoring different health behaviors using cell phones or handheld computers have been put in place that allow obtaining data that was previously difficult to collect.
Finally, one of the difficulties for adults confronted with these new technologies is to keep up with the frantic pace of innovations in this field.
As much as adolescents are able to master all these advances very quickly, all these new technological advances, adults have more difficulty adapting.
We are thus entering a situation that Margaret Mead described as a post-transitional society, in which information no longer passes, as was traditionally the case, from the old to the young, but on the contrary, from the young to the old.
For adults, it is a matter of humbly recognizing it and seeing it as an opportunity rather than a risk!
Educational impact of new technologies
Parents, educators, health professionals and even politicians often tend to demonize new technologies as a source of incitement to violence, pornography or even as a source of addictive behavior (especially towards online games). line).
Although this observation applies to a minority of teenagers, who are generally vulnerable, the majority of young people, boys as well as girls, adapt relatively well to these new tools and give them the place they deserve in their daily lives. .
In the field of education and learning, the Internet is a unique and valuable source of information for all adolescents.
Through research resources such as Google or Yahoo, encyclopedic tools such as Wikipedia, or the video archiving offered by YouTube, young people are stimulated in their curiosity and assisted in the preparation of presentations or documents.
As proof, a recent study showed that moderate use of the Internet led to more favorable academic progress, compared to non-use or excessive use. It is also important that young people be accompanied in these discoveries by adults and their teachers.
On the one hand, they are unaware of the risks associated with plagiarism, and on the other hand, they sometimes struggle to use their critical thinking and to sort out quality information from content that is much less valid, or even frankly proselytizing.
The Internet also represents a precious mode of socialization for young people, who discover through forums other people of their age interested in the same fields, can exchange ideas, this not only at the local level, but sometimes beyond the borders.
Forums of all kinds, more or less interactive, thus constitute a potential for stimulating exchanges, encouraging adolescents to better discover and explore their environment, the functioning of the world around them, and even to develop ideals.
For those young people suffering from a lack of confidence, shyness, or even inhibition, the internet offers the possibility of taking a first step to break out of their isolation.
For young people suffering from a disability or a chronic illness, the mobile phone and the internet are a means of compensating for the isolation in which, frequent hospitalizations or prolonged bed rest, their illness plunges them.
They can in particular , through specialized sites, to exchange experiences or emotions with other teenagers placed in similar situations.
Some of them, especially from mid-adolescence, are able to search the Internet for information about their illness and their treatment, thereby increasing their sense of control over their condition.
Finally, more and more health professionals are using new technologies to improve the therapeutic adherence of their young patients, with automatic reminders to take medication, for example, or appointment reminders, or finally the possibility of communicating the results of certain laboratory tests to them
New technologies as a source of health information
Over the past ten to fifteen years, a number of websites have been developed for adolescents and young adults to provide information on health, deliver preventive messages, and even answer individual questions about health problems.
At the present time, there are some in different languages such as English, French, Spanish or even Russian (cf. the Swiss Romand site ciao: www.ciao.ch or even in English www.goaskalice.columbia.edu or www.teenagehealthfreak.org).
Some of the sites of this type are supervised, or even entirely run by professionals. In this perspective, the important role played by a non-governmental agency based in Geneva called Health on the Net which can accredit sites of this nature and testify to their quality and seriousness.
It must indeed be recognized that there are a multitude of sites of a medical or paramedical nature whose content is of a more than questionable quality, when they do not frankly offer counterproductive messages, even dangerous for health.
The best sites for young people are those that offer an opportunity for interaction. The Ciao site, which has existed for more than ten years in French-speaking Switzerland, offers such a possibility:
it provides access to the questions asked by young people as well as to the answers given to them, and the whole system is governed by a principle of absolute confidentiality, questions and answers being provided under a pseudonym.
This site offers, in addition to this question-and-answer service (with an efficient search engine by topic), more general information on a whole series of topics such as health in general, sexuality, the use of substances, violence, mental health and suicide.
Ciao has also, over time, extended its activities outside the field of health and also offers information and exchanges around themes such as religion, politics, justice, leisure, interpersonal relations.
Such sites not only constitute a very rich source of information for adolescents, but also a resource in terms of training: it is indeed very useful for professionals who work with adolescents to visit such sites and see the representations that young people have of different themes, as well as the questions they are led to ask.
More specifically, young doctors in training can, by reading the answers given to questions asked under a pseudonym, realize how one can adapt one’s language and respond relatively concisely to a whole series of situations.