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A teen's take on technology

The Internet and its benefits from the perspective of a teenager.

A 14-year-old boy shares his thoughts on technology and on the potential privacy and security implications of the internet

Talking to children and teenagers is not always easy – we’ve all been teens before, and get it. When I first approached Xavier, 14, to talk about how he engages with the online world, I was quite concerned that I would be seen as yet another adult trying to reduce his screen time. But it all turned out well. Over a video call, I explained to Xavier that this interview is intended to be sort of a conversation starter for parents and their kids about internet use and safety, something of a starting point for discussions about a subject that often causes disagreements, if not heated arguments between parents and their kids.[BK1]

Is the online world part of the real world?

Despite being only 14, Xavier has already lived in a few countries. Born in Brazil, he moved to Mozambique, then to Portugal, and now lives in France. For this reason, while most kids his age have only been to two schools, Xavier has been through various education systems and even different languages of instruction. But above all, he has met other kids in all these places and has made a few friends everywhere he´s lived.

This is partly why, Xavier said, social media platforms are the only way for him to keep in touch with friends several thousand kilometres away and sometimes also with his current schoolmates. “I use WhatsApp and direct messages on TikTok and Discord as well. I am really shy as a person. I’m not really a good texter and prefer video calls,” he says.

“So do you think online life is real life?” I wondered. “Yeah, it is part of my life. When I’m online, I act more like the person that I actually am,” he admitted. Offline, meanwhile, he says he’s sometimes scared of what others think of him. “I don't know why I don't act more like myself. But I'm working on it,” he said.

A place of (self-)discovery

When the pandemic-induced lockdowns began, suddenly, everybody had to adjust to being physically separated from their friends and schoolmates. Indeed, homeschooling changed the lives of all kids, and not just because a laptop became a daily necessity (which was not accessible to all). For the lucky ones, however, time spent in front of a screen became a minor issue as classes, homework, and entertainment were all limited to a few square meters. For parents, this was both a blessing and a nightmare.

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