In the past one decade, significant developments have been witnessed in communication as new media has spread worldwide (Jones, 2003). This development has led to the lessening of the ease and time of communication between different places in the world thus the expression “global village.” According to Jones (2003), new media is now the largest and fastest growing medium of mass communication in the world and is increasingly becoming embedded in every aspect of everyday lives. Most people commonly interact with different types of digital communication devices daily while many others spend many hours daily just learning to use different communication gadgets such as smart phones, handheld computers, and laptop computers. Similarly, teenagers all over the developed world use video games, cell phones, the Internet, and other types of new media to communicate with each other every day. New media is especially applied through social media by teenagers to create their own social networks and interact with others through them Veltman (2006). Many researchers continue to investigate the impacts of social media on society with different studies focusing different specific segments, including youth, children, young adults, adults, and even the elderly. Even though a lot of research has been done on the impact of social media on the youth and particularly teenagers, not much has been covered about new media in general. Social media is just part of new media and there is still a significant gap in knowledge about how to minimize the negative impacts of new media on teenagers (Gross et al., 2002).
According to Veltman (2006), new media is a broad term encompassing the amalgamation of traditional media with the interactive power provided by modern information and communication technology, including computers; computer enabled communication devices, and the Internet. It is thus important for researchers to focus more on the broader picture by examining the impacts of new media as a whole on teenagers. As a result of new technological and social innovations in the field of communication, most teenagers in the developing world can now be able to make use of different forms of the new media, including social media, the Internet, mobile telephones to interact with each other and their environments. This paper specifically focuses on identification of the various components making up new media, the positive impacts of new media on teenagers, the negative impacts of new media on teenagers, and approaches of minimizing negative impacts of new media on teenagers.
This study examines one major dependent variable, which is the impact of new media on teenagers. This dependent variable is affected by the ‘elements’ of new media, all of which make up the independent variables. Although there are many elements associated with new media, this study will focus on five main independent variables, including the Internet, social media, access to portable communication devices, access to computers, and communication support platforms (Cyber cafes) that serve teenagers alongside other groups of people.
The first independent variable in the study is the Internet. The Internet is defined by Jones (2003) as a worldwide system of computer networks in which users all over the world can access through a computer to communicate with other computers, share information, obtain information or even directly communicate with users on other computers on the network. Veltman (2006) points out that currently the Internet is an extensive, public, cooperative and self-sustaining system that billions of people around the world have access to. It also consumes a portion of the total resources committed to public communication networks globally. The second independent variable in this study is social media. Many definitions have been given to social media depending on the various approaches towards the concept. According to McKenna & Barg (2000) social media is a set of Internet-based tools that are used for sharing and discussion of content among people using communication devices. Social media has also been defined as a category of websites that are built on the basis of participation of many people and the content they generate (McKenna & Bargh, 2000). Examples of social media sites include Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and MySpace.
The third independent variable in this study is access to portable communication devices. Portable communication devices generally refer to all communication devices that can be moved around with ease. These include gadgets such as mobile telephones, smart phones, iPads, and other similar devices. These devices can be used in sending messages, calling, accessing the Internet, exchanging media files though wireless connectivity, accessing financial services and other services. Teenagers across the developed world are increasingly gaining access to these communication devices, mainly from their parents. The fourth independent variable in this study is access to computers. A computer has been defined by as a device accepts digitized information, stores it, processes it through manipulations based on programs and makes it available to a user (Veltman, 2006). Over the times, computers have greatly improved in design, capacity and capability to store and process information; currently, new computer programs have been developed that enable multiple computers and programs to work together in network or parallel. Computers form part of the global communication network alongside the Internet and other devices. There are various types of computers in use globally including desktop computers, portable computers and mainframe computers. Teenagers all over the world have increasingly greater access to computers, particularly in the developed world where there is almost 100 percent access to the devices.
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