It is hard to believe that approximately 30 years ago having a personal computer was a rarity, and that the Internet had just been invented. Cell phones were not yet widespread and social media would not be created for another 20 years. For those belonging to the current generation, Generation Z, a world such as the one described above is nearly impossible to imagine. Today’s youth have grown up surrounded by technology. We have watched technology change and shape the world. Now, we are the people changing the world, using the tools we know best: computers, cell phones, and machinery.
Technology offers youth a unique opportunity to become changemakers. In much of the world, youth are a marginalized community. They are not awarded a voice in politics and are dismissed for their age with their ideas cast away due to inexperience. But in reality, inexperience doesn’t necessarily equate to novice ideas. Youth are making this abundantly clear with their use of technology.
Youth protests have been born and sustained through social media. Augmenting traditional protest methods of sit-ins and marches, social media offers youth a platform to advocate the political and social changes they desperately want to see in their societies. Young adults in Egypt and India are using YouTube to end sexism. Students in Hong Kong passionately fight for their right to a democratic society through FireChat and WhatsApp. With new media as a powerful tool, young people are influencing every sector of our world today.
Youth’s creativity soars when exposed to technology. Amazing inventions are being created every day, many by people under the age of 25. Youth see the problems of the modern world, and now, with ample access to technology, they are capable of doing something to resolve them. Through their inventions, youth are reducing high levels of cyber-bullying and creating life-changing devices for patients with Alzheimer’s. Young people are demonstrating what this next generation is capable of with technology at their fingertips.
Yet, not all change young people create with technology is positive. Many researchers argue that youth’s use of technology is negatively affecting their ability to communicate and relate to the world around them. In too large of doses and used the wrong way, technology is capable of causing depression, violence, addiction, and a loss of ability to communicate.
Throughout this chapter, you will find case examples that argue that technology is either inherently good or bad, and that it is either the face of the future or the downfall of civilization. However, technology use in modern society isn’t really about the technology at all. It is about the people who use the technology. Steve Jobs said, “Technology is nothing. What is important is that you have a faith in people, that they are basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” I believe in this quote.
Thank you for taking the time to read this chapter. I hope that it inspires you to take the technological tools that you have been given and use them to better the world. I have faith in you. I have faith in us.
Skylar Gering, The Bishop’s School
WorldLink 2015 Summer Intern