Impact and Implications of New Information Technology on Middle Eastern Youth

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper presents and reflects upon Middle Eastern youth's use of new information technology (IT) and the implications of that use. Several key problems and great prospects related to that use will be identified. Middle Eastern youth were found to be fond of their IT use mostly because of their ability to access all sorts of information and communicate with the outside world, including friends and family members abroad. To those youth, while IT is building bridges between them and distant others, it is also building ever stronger walls between them and close individuals, including family members, relatives, and neighbors at the same time. Those youth admit that they surround themselves with IT tools while paying little attention to some of their own needs as well as the needs of others around them. In addition, they are fully aware that misuse of IT tools and addiction are leading to destructive behaviors affecting them in major ways. The purpose of this paper is to address the impact and implications of new IT on Middle Eastern youth, namely the way they are using these technologies and the consequences of that use. The instruments used were short essays and questionnaires which took into account Middle Eastern sensitive sub-cultural differences among the target population. While subjects were given ample time to write and submit their essays, the questionnaires were scheduled and administered on time by professionals. Reasons for the stated problems and recommendations to prevent them or deal with them are provided in the course of this paper. In addition, the paper indicates the need for a comparative and coherent body of research across cultures pertaining to the impact and implications of new IT on our youth.

Introduction

New information Technology (IT) is almost everywhere and has dramatically altered the way we live. As a result, the role of IT in our daily living is growing rapidly to the degree that many of us, especially youngsters, have become dependent on, if not addicted to, our mobile phones and personal computers (PCs), which now constitute the principal tools for our interaction, research, and learning. As is the case anywhere in the world, both of these tools have become valued elements of life in the Middle Eastern region merely because they opened many doors to youth and allowed them to interact freely and markedly unlike at any other time in history. Although these tools and the related programs they provide have had a rather late start in that region, nevertheless most, if not all, Middle Eastern States allow public access to them these days. Hence, cyber communication has become as normal and fashionable as any other human activity. This has become so due to IT tools which allow their users to discover the never-ending and most up-to-date information available about almost anyone or anything worldwide. As Amrohvi (2008, p. 11) noted when she talked about the digital world and computers, "what started out as a computing tool used by scientists and in business is now a must have tool for all." The same thing can be said about mobile phones, they are "must haves" for almost everyone these days.

Like tsunami waves, college and university campuses have been hit by new generations of youth coming from high schools with quite a decent knowledge about IT and how to use its tools, especially cellular phones and computers. These youth have been referred to as the Echo Boomers, Millennial, the Net Generation, etc. The expectations, attitudes, and fluency with new IT of this generation have been beyond belief. Hence, dealing with these youth has been a challenge for educators, parents, and governments alike, especially in a region similar to the Middle East wherein public mingling between the genders is generally discouraged, many schools are segregated, and certain unclean behaviors or foul language are mostly edited out of the mass media. (Galal, 2002; Tubaishat et all, 2006; Wheeler, 2003)

The Middle East is well known as a region for some of the most autocratic and least democratic political systems existing worldwide. …