Erica D. Shifflet, PhD

Information Technology and the Net Generation: The Impact of Technology on Adolescent Communication and Interaction

Today’s adolescent has been born into a world filled with technology. Adolescents are the most frequent users of technology and use technology in more ways than their adult counterparts. To this point, the literature on adolescent technology use has primarily focused on dangers and risk to adolescents, including physical, emotional, and developmental.

The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the ways adolescents are using technology in communication and interaction with other people from a strengths based perspective, using qualitative methods to capture the voice and experience of adolescents. Following a review of historical and current literature on the phenomenon of adolescent technology use, the study focused on what adolescents are accessing using technology, how they see this use impacting their daily lives and development, and how adolescents are using technology to communicate.

This dissertation is based on a qualitative study that used semi-structured interviewing with 128 middle school students in the Midwest. Adolescent use of technology was universal among the study sample. Adolescents reported a variety of activities involving technology and discussed the pervasiveness of technology in their everyday lives. They regularly reported benefits of using technology, as well as awareness of potential risks, and confidence in their ability to protect themselves from these risks.

Adolescents value technology and eagerly accept new technologies into their everyday lives. Social Work practice, education, policy, and research need to accept the pervasiveness of technology use among this population and incorporate technology into all levels of work with adolescents and young adults.