Editorial: The kids are all grown up

Ease in accessibility accelerates maturation


Ayane Kobayashi

Technology allows younger generations easy access to explicit content, which can affect maturity. The Sidekick thinks this increased exposure shapes growth and learning negatively.

Editorial Board

Hey Siri.

What’s the weather like today? 

In an increasingly digital world, technology has become an essential part of everyday life. Long gone are the days of walking outside to test the weather, making a trip to Blockbuster to rent a film to watch on VHS or searching for specific information in a hard-copy encyclopedia. 

With a quick Google search, millions of results appear on a searched movie along with reviews, a full cast list, and where and how to watch. Resources such as textbooks, thesaurus and dictionaries have all been digitized. 

In a fifth grade classroom in Coppell ISD, worksheets have been replaced by iPads and Apple pencils. Pencils and pens become increasingly hard to find on desks, and screen time continues to rise. Free time is overtaken by iPhones and TVs instead of books and board games.

At Coppell High School and in Coppell middle schools, students are buried in their phones during class and passing periods, often bumping into one another as they scroll through updates on Snapchat or Instagram. 

Newer generations are experiencing technological advancements that were not possible 10 years ago. Research suggests preschoolers are becoming familiar with digital devices before they are exposed to books. Although technology has no doubt contributed to an overall better quality of life globally, there are pitfalls from the overuse of technology while maturing. 

There are multiple effects that technology has on teen maturity. Just as there isn’t just one effect of eating food or drinking water, different forms of media have different effects as children’s brains develop according to experiences. Childhood is typically characterized by “high plasticity” where change is dependent on the experiences faced. 

This translates to a high school setting as we are exposed to a wider variety of the internet   through the accessibility of technology. As opposed to monitored internet access from parental figures, teenagers have the option to utilize websites and social media apps. By simply scrolling through the trending pages of Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, content such as oversexualized advertisements and trends are pushed out to impressionable teenagers.

Exposure to sexually explicit media in early adolescence has been found to be related to risky sexual behaviors in adulthood such as unprotected sex. Young individuals are more likely to change and begin expressing sexual attitudes as exposure to sexual content increases. The availability of it online has also impacted development in diverse ways. For example, adolescents are impacted by the way they interact with one another as they are often influenced by depictions in media. 

This can affect the subconscious “plasticity” of the mind. Neural plasticity is where the brain reorganizes itself based on the experience faced. The accessibility and prevalence of sexually explicit content impacts teenagers specifically as it influences social interactions between peers and teens are often swayed by popular opinion in the media.

In order to reduce negative structural plasticity, students can learn new things that have been proven to be positive changes for the brain. For example, learning a new language, creating art, or learning how to play an instrument can increase grey matter and strengthen white matter in the brain. This is beneficial as grey matter is responsible for controlling movements, memory and emotions while white matter facilitates information transfer.  

Social media apps, such as TikTok, have made it increasingly easy to trend TV shows and movies. Several CHS and Coppell middle school students have amassed a large amount of followers in this app. TikTok’s minimum age is 13, however oftentimes the content being shared is not appropriate for young audiences. A third of the audience may even be younger than that. 

Research also shows that exposure to violence in media contributes to risks of aggressive behaviors in adults in the short term and an increase of  risks of violent behavior in children in the long run. As children mature, a large portion of maturation is attributed to observational learning. Children and teenagers form beliefs on what is socially acceptable, and these beliefs are solidified and serve as a filter to the outside world.  When children are exposed to explicit content in the media, they are desensitized to it and the beliefs that children form shift.

Accessibility and exposure to explicit content online is inevitable. Understanding the effects that explicit content can have on a developing adolescent mind can make a difference. Teenagers can begin to understand why they may be having certain thoughts and feelings after being exposed to negative content.  

 Growing up in an increasingly technologically advancing world, children mature faster due to early exposure to sexual and violent content online and miss out on just being kids. By understanding how viewing explicit content can change you and your perspective of the world, teenagers can moderate internet use accordingly and learn to protect themselves.  

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