Teen Tech Use: Too Much, Too Soon?

Technology is everywhere. Cell phones, iPods, Blackberrys and computers are part of everyday life.

What does this kind of exposure to electronic media mean for our children? Are they exposed to too much, too soon?

CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller recently sat down with teens and tweens from Hackensack, N.J. and, on "The Early Show" Tuesday, shared what she found.

Young people today lead media-saturated lives. Miller spoke with ninth graders to see how much of an impact technology makes on their everyday activities.

Freshman Quanai said, "When I don't have my phone, I feel like I'm not going to make it through the day."

The ninth graders were pretty tech-savvy, but even they admit they are sometimes exposed to too much.

In the digital world, "sexting" and "cyber-bullying" often lead to real-life confrontation.

Teens can be ruthless on sites such as Formspring.com, a controversial site where comments are posted anonymously that made headlines earlier this year when it was linked to a teen suicide.

Miller found that some of the teens feel their exposure to technology makes them more mature.

Middle-schooler Giovanni said, "It makes me experience stuff faster than I normally would, and that makes me more mature."

But Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, child and adolescent psychologist, said on "The Early Show" that, "Experience does not equal maturity."

Miller said, "These kids seem to have their technology use under control, but many admit their parents are not completely aware of their online activities."

In a world where everybody knows everybody's business, some parents try to limit the amount of time their children spend online and on other electronics.

However, there are plenty of ways around those rules. Teens readily sneak in time to make secret Facebook accounts under names parents can't find.

Some teens justify the behavior by the old excuse of joining the crowd and fitting in with their peers.

Others interviewed by Miller say they just want to be independent and have the ability to run their own lives.

Hartstein says it's a simple matter of communicating with your kids.

She said, "Parents need to learn what the technology is and to act as a conduit between media and kids."

Similar to teaching kids about appropriate face-to-face interactions, there should be a talk about what's appropriate for Facebook and website interactions.

Hartstein said, "If you're not going to be rude to someone to their face, don't do it on the Internet -- it stays there forever."

Hartstein discussed a recent study done at the University of Virginia showing that social media sites and digital communication are not hindering the social development of children -- they're actually helping them.

Hartstein stresses that, as long as parents teach their children to treat others with respect and to be safe, there is nothing to fret about. Also, kids need to let people know if something is happening online, because it can get out of control.

She said, "Parents need to let their kids know it's O.K. to talk to them."
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