Smartphones are changing the cultural influences on children’s development. In part five of her six-part series, Dr Stephanie Thornton considers the links between smartphone use and anti-social behaviour

Among the many worries associated with the explosion of teenage mobile or smartphone use is the fear that this technology will foster anti-social and damaging behaviour of one sort or another.

We have known for a long time that people find it easier to make personal disclosures and tend to be more blunt, aggressive, impulsive, intense, and even more anti-social online than in everyday life (Suler, 2004).

Online interactions somehow feel more anonymous, one’s identity more invisible, leading to a more disinhibited style of responding than we would engage face-to-face.

Teenagers are just as prone as adults to this “online disinhibition effect”. They may be more vulnerable to the risks this can create: adolescents are less aware of the potential consequences of ill-advised revelations or anti-social texts, posts or tweets, less aware that these indiscretions can haunt them for years, or even for decades.

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