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Teens feel 'trapped' by technology

Posted: June 13, 2012 - 12:07am

A debate among the folks who run Facebook seems headed toward allowing unfettered access to the social networking site for anyone old enough to poke a keyboard.

Facebook, needing to satisfy new investors by continuing to add to its legions of users, is looking to those under age 13 to boost the numbers. Currently, children under 13 are prohibited from using the service (wink, wink). Removing the limit wouldn’t so much allow younger users as it would eliminate the need for existing young users to quit lying about their ages.

So, is it a bad idea for younger kids to have open access to Facebook?

If the comments of some local high-school students are any indication, it might be a bad idea for any kids to have access to Facebook.

When Lakeside High School English teacher Kim Hinner recently assigned students to write essays about teen drinking in response to a series of my columns and related news coverage, she understood that the topic might be a bit too touchy for some students.

“A few of my seniors were cited in February” for minor in possession of alcohol, she said, “so I gave two topics to avoid any embarrassment.”

The other topic sprang from this prompt: “Do you feel that social networking has a positive aspect for your lifestyle or has your generation opened a window where no privacy exists? Attack or defend today’s technology. Do you feel that you are ‘trapped’ by the advances in technology?”

Based on the student’s essays (quoted here with initials only), the answer to the final question seems to be a definite “yes.”

“We worry about other people so much that we don’t have time to think about ourselves,” writes M.M. “People today need to be trying to preserve their privacy, not exploiting themselves to everything and everyone around them.”

“We have no barriers anymore,” writes S.T. “It’s like someone removing the privacy fence from your back yard, but you’re providing the tools.”

R.W. calls the Internet “just another death trap” and “a life-destroyer.” K.M. writes that Facebook is a “monster that sucks the lives out of people.”

It’s a little disturbing that many of the students sound like true addicts, admitting nothing about a problem themselves, but worrying about all the other people compulsively fostering the invasion of their own privacy. They seem to be saying, “I don’t have a problem, but everyone else sure does.”

S.A. says it like this: “If there is ever a solar (storm) or something goes haywire with everyone’s electronics, there will be a zombie apocalypse.”

So, will opening Facebook to younger kids make this worse? Probably. Can we do anything about it? As parents, yes. Will we? Probably not.

In the end, none of us can predict the technological new world that’s around the corner. But none of us will get out of it alive.

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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