How is technology manipulating young people? A psychologists view

Hi all,

I’ve spent many years working with young people and the explosion in mobile technology, targeted deliberately at the teenage audience, is chilling. Here’s a piece exploring this in detail, drawing on my experiences out in the real world. Vulnerable kids are most a risk and schools have little idea how to discuss, let alone tackle the subject. Ideas are presented…


I agree that “partial attention is the norm” given the global smartphone culture. Unfortunately, research on children and television that predated the Internet didn’t deter the ubiquitous nature of social media and its negative consequences.

Research that was done in the 80s should have shown us what a Pandora’s box children’s access to smartphones / social media/ uncensored content would open. A 1988 article in The Journal of Special Education (Sprafkin J., Gadow, K.D. & Kant, G. “Teaching emotionally disturbed children to discriminate reality from fantasy on television”) demonstrated that emotionally disturbed children not only watch more television than other children, but they are more likely to want to imitate their favorite TV characters and typically believe what they view on TV is real. This research also claims emotionally disturbed children are highly reactive to aggressive content on TV. There was a curriculum tested (television viewing skills - TVS) which was intended to demystify TV via providing children with an understanding of how programs are produced, what’s real vs. pretend, what special effects are, and why there are commercials. The researchers found the curriculum worked to a certain degree for all areas except commercials.

What was most interesting, is that neither group of children in the study was able to understand that commercials are merely persuasive messages.

Here we are today with a continuous stream of all types of messaging to children as well as adults who are on “partial attention” mode…Yes, we need to teach students how to use technology to their benefit instead of the other way around!

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Hi, I am a retired Behavioral Healthcare Administrator and a musician. I’ve been working with my Cinematographer friend, Joseph Piner, by contributing a musical composition for his documentary "Electronic Crack"Electronic Crack Trailer. The purpose of this documentary is to heighten the awareness of the risks of technology. My song “What Will We Become?” suggests concerns about how we seem to be adapting to technology in a potentially devolving way What Will We Become?. Joseph and I hope this film will help promote an awareness of the concerns about technology; and will in turn, cause parents and others to take the necessary actions to protect our future. Please feel free to spread the word about Electronic Crack.


Here’s my fresh contribution about the ‘Attention-Smartphone-Teenager’ harmful triad, an article I wrote as a guest writer on @PatMc’s “The Low Tech Trek” community blog: If you were a teenager, would you focus on something else?

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Continuing the discussion from How is technology manipulating young people? A psychologists view:

Interesting Dori. Apologies for late response, I’ve been volunteering abroad and avoiding the internet for a while :slight_smile: I will certainly look at this article, it sounds intriguing.

Hi Michele,

Great article. I’m wondering, do you have ay resources that you might be able to share in regards to working with young people? As a school psychologist this would be very helpful in supporting schools to deliver on these issues. I have resources that I can send to you also, having conducted a project over the course of a year around social networking.

Interesting Dori. Apologies for late response, I’ve been volunteering abroad and avoiding the internet for a while :slight_smile: I will certainly look at this article, it sounds intriguing.

Hi Chris,

thank you. Sorry I don’t have any resources of that kind, I actually based my work with them by:

  • initially a survey they could fill as a form to see where they were in terms of experiences, knowledge and feelings about those themes. We analysed results together, also in creative aggregated forms like charts. These are in anonymous form but still private to our class group.
  • then I prepared a set of slides for each relevant topic (I have uploaded a subset translated in english here) and presented to them in an open way, they could contribute to the discussion etc.
  • in some occasions, they did something different: reading and summarizing a scientific article about attention and smartphone, reading a script about a possible class group collective interview after a fictional cyberbullying episode happened to a student, finding out an algorithm and its implementation even if they never saw anything like that.

I don’t know if this could be helpful for you…