Psychosocial Development and Technology Use (Stage 5)
In the previous blogs we introduced Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development and how technology use might interfere with the first four stages.
In this blog we will examine, Stage 5, (children 12 to 18 years old) and the potential consequences of technology use during this stage of development.
|1||Birth to 24 months||Trust vs. Mistrust||Hope|
|2||2 – 3 years||Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt||Will|
|3||3 – 5 years||Initiative vs. Guilt||Purpose|
|4||5 – 11 years||Industry vs. Inferiority||Competence|
|5||Adolescence||Identity vs. Confusion||Fidelity|
|6||Early Adulthood||Intimacy vs. Isolation||Love|
|7||Middle Age||Generativity vs. Stagnation||Care|
|8||Old Age||Integrity vs. Despair||Wisdom|
Stage 5: Identity Versus Role Confusion (12 – 18 years)
At this stage, the adolescent is learning how to answer confidently the question of “Who am I?” As adolescents begin to examine and re-examine their identity, they are subject to periods of self-doubt. This occurs because ultimately adolescents want to fit-in and belong with a society. During this stage, adolescents begin to demonstrate additional independent skills with a goal of establishing future plans for work, career, relationships, and residence. All of these factors assist the adolescent in determining which roles they will fulfill as an adult. Erikson believed that the two primary roles discovered during this stage are the sexual role and the occupational role.
During this stage, as the child’s body goes through normal development changes, they will become uncomfortable with those bodily changes for at least some period of time. However, eventually the adolescent becomes increasingly comfortable with their body development.
In addition, during this time a child will practice their independence through exploration and develop a sense of self – based on the outcome of their explorations. Erikson believed that at this stage an adolescent will seek out leadership to follow and will gradually develop a sense of self that is socially congruent and desirable to those around them. Those who receive appropriate encouragement and reinforcement for their personal exploration will emerge from this stage with a strong sense of self and a feeling of independence and control. Completing this stage successfully leads to fidelity, which Erikson described as an ability to live by society’s standards and expectations, while having the ability to stay true to one’s self. Fidelity has also been described as the ability to be able to commit to others on the basis of acceptance of others even when there may be philosophical or theoretical differences between the two.
Role confusion for an adolescent occurs when they fail to succeed during this stage of psychosocial development. Role confusion leads to a weak sense of personal identity and a deficient appreciation of their place in society. If an adolescent senses pressure from others to develop a particular identity, they may rebel by establishing a negative identity and will experience significant feelings of unhappiness. When this identity crisis occurs, the adolescent may experiment with different lifestyles – either in work, education, or other activities. Those who remain unsure of their beliefs and desires will feel insecure and confused about themselves and the future.
Technology use can have a positive and negative impact on this stage of psychosocial development. While adolescents explore the external world to develop their sense of self they are much better situated than generations before them to know the far reaches of the world. They are exposed to vast and distant cultures, various human distresses and accomplishments, and unfamiliar or engaging activities, all of which can help adolescents shape their self-identity and discover the roles they want to fulfill in adulthood. Adolescents during this stage can develop positive online relationships with other adolescents who have different experiences and lifestyles. These are advantages that we as parents never could have imagined during our foundational years. Parents can be active participants with their child by encouraging them to explore and reinforcing their efforts at independence.
Unfortunately, there can be deleterious disadvantages to technology use during this stage of psychosocial development. The first detrimental disadvantage to technology use is an adolescent’s exposure to cyber-bullying from peers. While bullying has always been an issue for adolescents, cyber-bullying takes away the only refuge victims of bullying have enjoyed in the past. Cyber-bullying follows the adolescent into their home because adolescents are typically connected to their cell phones or social media accounts in their home. An adolescent who is struggling with their sense of self or identity is vulnerable to the taunts or jeers of their compatriots. This weakened sense of self may lead to rebellion or significant self-doubt. If the adolescent struggles with their identity formation during this stage then they may enter early adulthood confused about their role in society and their value to that society.
The second deleterious effect of technology use during this stage of psychosocial development is on the sexual arousal patterns of adolescents or their sexual role. Unfortunately, the Internet is the mechanism by which adolescents can access increasing amounts of adult and child pornography. While curiosity and sexual exploration is common in adolescents, the Internet permits limitless exploration of conventional and unconventional pornographic content, images, and videos. There is also the ability to gain access to illegal and extremely disturbing content. When developing adolescents are exposed to disturbing content, they begin to affect their own sexual arousal patterns. If they become habituated to increasingly disconcerting sexual content then their sexual arousal patterns may reflect that same content. For example, a 13-year-old adolescent who is regularly viewing child pornography depicting 12-year-old victims (technically a peer) may never develop the natural progression of becoming sexually aroused to a developed, adult body; therefore, at age 20 that individual may continue to be sexually aroused to 12-year-old children. Therefore, unfettered technology use can significantly and negatively impact the adolescent’s sexual role development.
Tips for Stage 4 children (ages 12 – 18)
- Strive to make two evenings a week Tech Free.
- Use monitoring software to screen out inappropriate sexual content
- Do not permit Peer-2-Peer (P2P) programs on your computer. Examples include, Ares, Kazaa, bittorrent. You do not need to know the name of the particular program, just that it is a P2P program. These programs are littered with child pornography.
- Spend time with your child exploring and researching various topics.