Is the Internet making teenagers do more dumb things than ever?
Some child specialists worry that it is. Teenagers have always been prone to taking foolish risks (thanks partly to the brain's prefrontal cortex, which governs decision-making and is still developing in adolescence). But with the rise of sites like YouTube and Facebook, these experts say, teenagers now face virtual peer pressure to emulate all kinds of dangerous stunts and dares, and post them online.
There are no data to demonstrate whether Web-inspired recklessness is really increasing or whether teenagers are taking the same risks as earlier generations — and just finding it easier to document idiotic exploits for all to see.
But some doctors say that at the very least, the Internet is causing adolescents to ratchet up the danger level. A few weeks ago, Dr. E. Hani Mansour, a burn specialist in Livingston, N.J., treated a teenager who had been severely burned after lighting fireworks. This was not your father's fireworks accident. The boy had filled the family bathtub with fireworks, covered his body in protective clothing and set up a video camera to record the event. The resulting explosion, which the teenager later said he had hoped to post on YouTube, created a fireball that left the boy with burns on about 14 percent of his body.
"Boys have been trying to be rocket scientists for many years," said Dr. Mansour, medical director of the burn center at St. Barnabas Medical Center. "But now we're seeing it in a more brazen way. They're doing it for the purpose of filming it."
New York Times