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FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.
Does it ever seem that teenagers can't go anywhere without their mobile phones? Does it ever appear that whenever you see teenagers, they seem to be looking down at their gadgets while moving their thumbs at a feverish clip? Indeed, does it seem that their smart phones appear to be permanently attached to their hands as additional body parts?
Well, if these are your perceptions, a recent study supports what you have been perceiving. The Pew Research Center has released a study that addresses teen use of social media technology. According to that study, a robust 73% of American teenagers have access to a smart phone. And 88% of American teenagers have access to a mobile phone of some kind, whether a smart phone or not.
Perhaps these study results may not be surprising. However, the fact that we are not surprised marks a revolution in terms of youth communications.
It truly was not that long ago when teenagers would communicate by landline telephone calls and by getting together in person. But that is not the case with the current generation of teenagers. Now, by simply using a tiny handheld device and accessing social media outlets on those devices, teenagers in a nanosecond can interact with all of their hundreds of "friends."
What are the consequences of this revolution? These consequences still are playing out for us to understand, but some are starting to become apparent.
First, teenagers might believe that certain people are true friends when their interactions really have been superficial.
Second, teenagers at times may not be awake to the real world around them, while they are distracted but what is being displayed on their handheld device screens.
Third, teenagers may be losing their attention span to concentrate, as they quickly move from one distraction to another on their smart phones.
Fourth, teenagers more than ever are living their lives out loud for many other teenagers to see. Emails, texts, photos and videos intended for one recipient easily can be shared with large groups, potentially causing tremendous embarrassment.
Fifth, teenagers may lose their own natural curiosity and ability to explore, as they simply do quick Internet searches on their phones to get quick and easy answers to any questions that may arise.
There is no real likelihood of undoing the teenager smart phone revolution. And plainly, smart phones can have many beneficial uses. But with the almost ubiquitous presence of smart phones in the hands of teenagers, hopefully some education can be provided such that teenagers still make true, in-person friends; stay awake to the real world; maintain their ability to concentrate; protect their own privacy by not sharing too much of themselves on their phones; and foster their own natural curiosity.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.
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