Implications of Digital Technology on Youth Culture
The proliferation of interactive digital technologies can be traced back to the 1980s, when Sony and other technology organizations began releasing products like video games, walkmans, personal computers and computer based communication systems such as Prodigy and CompuServe. The internet gained prominence in the 1990s as a result of the launch of the first World Wide Web browser. The creation of other browsers ensured that public accessibility to the internet was more enhanced. It was also during that time that personal digital assistants were deployed to offer assistance to the public. However, the digitalization of virtually all media including radio, television, music and video occurred in the late 1980s. The founding of social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have ensured the global adoption of technology. Although all the changes have been taking place, a generation was aging. Today, youths in their 20s grew up with digital technology. Thus, the internet, video games and other forms of technology have played major roles in shaping their lifestyles (McMillan & Morrison 2006, p.74).
Considering that digital technology and the internet have been integrated and infused into the daily lives of an increasing population of youths, scholars and commentators have been held in debates on the effects of these new media on the social relationships, activities and world views of the upcoming generation. Besides, there have also been controversial statements on whether or not technology is responsible for shaping attitudes, values and patterns of social behaviors (Driscoll & Gregg 2008, p.84). The development of cable TV, which has ensured that some television stations now have a global audience, has also raised similar concerns regarding its social and cultural impacts. Owing to the high consumption levels, it is undoubted that these technologies have had a significant implication on the youth. From the academic point of view, this paper discusses the impacts of digital technology on the culture of the youth.
Implications of Digital Technology on the Youth
Digital technology has a double impact on the cultural identity of the young generation based on its content and the way in which it is applied. It can either divert or enhance cultural values. According to a study conducted in 2002, Juluri made the observation that satellite TV in Indi had significantly enforced Indian traditions on the youth across the country. This occurred because two of the most popular foreign owned stations in the country, MTV and Channel V, broadcast programs that featured Indian music videos and film songs. A greater percentage of their promotions were filled with exoticized and satirized vignettes of the daily life and culture of the people of India. Juluri illustrates that Indian pop stars like A.R Rahman and Lata Mangeshkar are more popular among the youth in India compared to other international stars like Michael Jackson. Since the launch of these stations in India, they have represented an unexpected culture of the youth especially for the urban audiences. There have been consistent reports from past surveys showing that the Indian youth are strong supporters of the traditional Indian family values (Juluri 2002, p.370). This is an indication that when applied in the promotion of a particular culture, digital technology can provide the youth with an ideal sense of self identity.
However, it should also be noted that digital technology can erode cultural values, especially if they are constantly in depiction of foreign cultures. Recently, the number of American television stations has globally increased. This has ensured the steady growth of popularity of American artistes and entertainers (Juluri 2002, p.385). Popular Hollywood films have always been showcasing the American lifestyle. Since the invention of it, US companies have dominated the internet. Based on this, many easily convinced youth will ignore their own cultural values to copy what is portrayed in the media. Increased globalization has also ensured that cultures remain under constant degradation. This has been more facilitated by the digital media, which has significantly impacted communication and interaction across the globe. Youths who are more attracted to foreign media may regularly lose their sense of cultural identity.
According to the observers of media consumption, the lives of youth are being typified by the privatization of media in an environment with a variety of media platforms. In different parts of the world, and especially the developed nations, the consumption of media by the young people includes a wide range of artifacts like Smartphones, television sets, laptops or desktop computers, tablets, video games as well as music and video digital players. Since new devices are being introduced at relatively very short intervals, with new improvements on previous products, youths who are technology savvy tend to gain a lot. In the past, it was a normal thing to have some of these devices in the living rooms, where they could be used by the entire family at the same time. However, this is not what is happening today. In many households, it is common to find young people having these gadgets in their own rooms for their personal use (Mesch 2009 p.53). This is an implication that the youth can use digital media without any form of supervision from parents, guardians or other people who are older than them.
Considering the fact that most youth use digital technology exclusively and spend lots of their time on the gadgets, their level of interaction with parents or guardians has significantly gone down. Thus, many parents have been challenged in teaching their parents cultural ideals. The youth have consequently become dependent on their peers (with whom they often interact with), television and other media in order to acquire information (Mesch 2009 p.54). Many youths are quick to identify themselves with the heroes (mainly celebrities) that they watch in films, TV and over the internet. However, quite a number of these celebrities have had a negative influence on the young people. For instance, secular musicians depict glamour in smoking, drug use and alcoholism and women as more of sexual objects. Without the supervision of their parents on what they consume and issue proper advice, there are higher chances that these young people will take up these habits. Alcoholism and drug use has been a major issue in the 21st century. In the same vein, many youths have also been influenced into premarital sex as a result of their consumption of sexual content from the internet. Researchers have established that the young generation today engages in sex at a tender age unlike the previous generations (Powell 2007, p.21).
Living in a society that is awash with media, the youth have come up with various avenues of expressing values, behaviors and attitudes when compared to previous generations. In the environment that we have today, it is clear that people have to embrace and master digital technology in order to stay up to date and be successful. Based on this perspective, a new generation has been created that is highly versed with technology. This has in turn influenced people’s interests and skills in great ways. For example, they perceive, think and decode information quite differently from their elders. Owing to the readily available information on the internet, the youth tend top first make confirmation before accepting new things (Driscoll & Gregg 2008 p.80). However, this has made them highly dependent on information technology.
In order to stay up to date with digital technology trends, most youths are very eager to get the expertise that is required in developing imaginative multimedia presentations. Many young people are also inspired to becoming media producers instead of mere consumers. Success stories of individuals like Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Drew Houston and Mark Zuckerbag have been a motivation to many youths to do experiments with digital technology. This means that some of the youths are moving a notch higher than simply consuming media (Mesch 2009, p.54). Thus, it is common to find out that there are some students who are more knowledgeable than even their teachers when it comes to the use of technology.
In the past decade, the internet, especially the introduction of social networking sites has significantly widened our social platforms. Today, a person living in Australia is able to communicate with another in South Africa, the United States, England or China at the same time. At present, there are no longer cost and time constraints in passing information as it was in the past. Even if one is bored with the task of exchanging messages (via chat or IM), he or she can simply turn to communication through video link using Skype. One of the main features of social networking is that it offers one the opportunity to choose the type of people that he or she wants to befriend (Ellison et al. 2007, p.138). This has been impacted social capital benefits to the young people.
According to previous studies, expanded social network that is achieved by digital technology has enhanced the social capital of the youth. This is because of the valuable access that they have to resources, support and information at their own convenience. In the past decade, several studies have been done on the impact of social networking sites on the social capital of the youth. For instance, Ellison et al. (2007) established that the use of Facebook is positively attributed to linking and bonding social capital in a group of college students (p.164). Besides, they also discovered links between Facebook use and measures of satisfaction in life and self esteem. Thus, they point out that youths with low self esteem or life satisfaction should consider using Facebook (or any other social networking site). In another research, Velenzuela et al. (2009) conducted a study on the use of Facebook by college students and the effect of its social capital (p.898). Their findings showed that the usage had a positive correlation with satisfaction in life, civic engagement and social trust.
Digital technology has improved the way in which young people socialize with each other. They use the various platforms that are provided by it to ensure that they are able to stay in touch with friends and family members who are not within reach. In the process of making friends with people from across the world, youths mainly use the internet to connect to people they know. Technology has essentially facilitated offline relationships. Through these platforms, they are able to hold conversations about more intimate topics and gossip, with the assurance that none will find out. In this regard, technology has generally helped in enhancing friendships (McMillan & Morrison 2006, p.75). However, it has also contributed to the breakage of some relationships, especially in cases where confidential information is leaked to a third party.
Stereotyping by the media has significantly affected the way in which young people interact with people from different cultures or nationalities. For instance, blacks have always been considered to be violent while Hispanics are portrayed as overly romantic as seen in Hollywood films. Besides, virtually all movies that are related to terrorism feature Arabs. A youth who constantly watches such kinds of media will try to imagine that it is the truth. They will also come to the conclusion that Arabs are terrorists. Such kind of stereotypes will showcase when the youth comes into contact with people from such racial backgrounds. However, they may also avoid them altogether in some instances. If only there is rational digital technology consumption, credulous youths will experience challenges in socializing with other people from foreign lands.
There is an important impact of digital technology on the learning process of students. However, the effect depends on the way in which it used. For instance, a student who spends a lot of time watching TV, playing video games or listening to music will not have enough time for studies and revision. As a result, such students will deliver poor performance in class, especially if they use media during class sessions. However, this technology can also impact better improvement on the part of students if used appropriately. For example, a student who develops better relationships with classmates and tutors will be more focused on his or her work in class. This enhances the chances of better performance.
A previous study showed that there is a link between high quality relationships and the engagement and achievement of a student (Eccles & Templeton 2002, p.175). Similarly, a youth who has many friends at school and has better relationship with teachers has less chances of dropping out of school.
In the past two decades, digital technology and networks have become more incorporated into our day-to-day lives. Therefore, they have become critical components of a variety of changes on how we engage in knowledge communication, production and creative expression. Although this technology has affected almost every person in society, it had a greater impact on the youth since they have been exclusively brought up in the digital era. Many young people cannot imagine their lives without the internet, TV, Video games or music and video players. Based on this, they have become highly dependent on these platforms. This dependence has far reaching effects. While digital media has benefits on the youth culture, it can also be dangerous is used irrationally or in a way that is not appropriate.
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