Today's teens have been greatly affected by technology, especially for those kids who have never known anything else and have no desire to.
In the classroom, we see a desire to look up everything on the Internet. Unfortunately, some information is untrue (in terms of research) or incorrect. Students do not know how to research information from books. The Internet is a great tool, but a great deal of information is not yet available outside of books.
When typing, students (and adults...I'm one) often rely too heavily on computers for grammar and spell-check. I usually have to proof things the old fashioned way (with my eyes) as well as on the computer with two different programs. Some words are not caught as misspellings. Others are rejected, but are accurate: e.g., impactful.
It is easier for teens to say things via texting and Facebook. When we get angry or hurt, we often lash out without thinking. When it is verbal only, the pain of our words (or others' can disappear). Anything written down, on paper or on-line (which is so accessible) is there forever. Even deleting does not always work. It is much too easy to bully or slander others. I have heard it said by adults and teens: some people don't have a filter—they write without thinking; they speak without thinking. And words can do unimaginable harm.
Technology can make teens lazy. It's easy to understand that a dictionary is a drag to use, or math is a pain to figure out by hand, but if a computer dies ("crashes and burns"), sometimes the old way is the only resource available.
Technology has made things much easier for everyone. I'm afraid, however, that when things become too easily, some young people don't understand the concept of hard work. This interferes with their ability to integrate into a demanding society at the college level or in the work force. It robs young people of the sense of accomplishment and increased or reaffirmed self-worth when things come too easily. And the sense of "instant gratification" is magnified—some things come with time; the inability to see this can make life much harder.
(Teens are not the only ones who deal with these issues, but as the world becomes more competitive, teens need to be challenged and prepared to compete in a world-wide job market.) ...As I see it.
There are many reasons that attitudes change from generation to generation. Technology is only one of those reasons. To build on what has already been said, teens today do have an "I want it now" attitude. In the past, information had to be looked up in an actual book. This meant a good deal more in terms of problem solving skills. Previous generations had to think through what they needed to find in their own minds whereas today's students can simply punch key terms into a search engine and be given the answer. This can lead to a lack of problem solving skills as well as other changes in attitude. There is the sense of entitlement. The idea that one should be given something simply because it was asked for rather than the idea that one has to earn things.
I believe the addictive quality of modern technology has had a profound effect on today's teens. Few teens and young adults can refuse the temptations of constant texting and easy Internet accessibility on affordable devices that could never have been imagined just a few short decades ago. Gone are the days of kids creating their own forms of imaginative entertainment--playing ball, spending time outdoors, reading. Instead, the iPhone rules their lives, and for many kids, the hours spent with them each day could surely be used in a more conscientious manner.
Certainly, the expectation of immediate gratification is changing the ways in which all of us, not just children and teens, act and think. It particularly impacts students who don't know how to focus on a topic for a long period of time - and it impacts their teachers and how they present information in class.
The increased exposure to news, I think, has decreased the understanding and appreciation of the significance of events. We are exposed to news of killings and atrocities so often that we have become somewhat immune to grasping the horror of these situations.
To build on the last two responses, I would add that information is more readily available than in previous days. This is, of course, a wonderful development, but it also means that less discipline is required to find information, which we often learn about in the form of blurbs or wikipedia articles. I think the danger exists that we become more superficial learners and thinkers, a danger magnified by our feeling of entitlement mentioned above.
Perhaps there is a demand today among teens and adults for quick results, immediate responses, and for no waiting. The speed of calculation embodied in computer technology has filtered out into our everyday interactions at the grocery store, in schools (think scantron/bubble tests), and at home.
For teens, I suspect that the demand for things to happen quickly is even stronger than it is in adults.
Impossible to answer this for sure since changes in attitudes could be attributed to so many things. But you could argue that changes in technology have led us to feel more entitled and less resilient. With all our technology, things don't go wrong as much and so we lose the feeling that bad things could happen and that we are not entitled to have everything go our way.