Technology: Friend or Foe?

“Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master, said Christain Lous Lange.   I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Lange.  The advances in technology have changed the way we live.  No longer do we have to wait until we get home to make or receive calls.  Gone are the days of waiting for the newspaper to get our daily news.  Conducting business has become easier than ever with email and fax, and the need for an in person interview has become somewhat obsolete due to apps such as Skype and Zoom.  Technology admittedly has its perks, but I would argue that it has just as many negative consequences.  Here are some areas in which technology has negatively impacted our daily lives.

1.      Communication and Intimacy- Technology has changed the way we communicate with one another.  Have something on you mind?  Need to change or make plans for the evening?  Have a funny joke to tell a friend?  Want to check in with your mate or child?  It’s as easy as sending a text, that takes only seconds to compose and send.  While the convenience of cell phones and social media has revolutionized our access to each other and made it easier than ever to reach out to others, it has also taken the intimacy out of familial and romantic relationships, and has made us less social beings. How many times have you sat at the table with someone and instead of being engaged with you, him/her issending or responding to a text message or answering a phone call or email. 

It has become increasingly difficult to date.  The convenience of texting has reduced “getting to know you” into a series of text messages, and has taken the place of long phone conversations. While Facetime or Skye do provide the opportunity to actually see the person on the other end of the line, it also makes it convenient to substitute for authentic face time.

2.      Intellectual Aptitude- We’re not as intelligent as we once were.  In today’s age, we are really not required to think.  Anything that we want to know is literally at our fingertips.   As an educator, I have witnessed it every day, this generation of children want to be given everything.  They don’t have to struggle to figure anything out because they can look it up. Children don’t even know how to use a dictionary properly because they can look the word up on their smartphones. Children struggle with learning multiplication facts because they can use the calculator to compute answers.  Social media has taken over “down time”.  Instead of utilizing extra time to read a book, most of us log in to our social media pages to update statuses or read what’s happening in other lives.   Technology has dumbed us down, for the lack of a better term.  To quote Carl Sagan, “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” 

3.      Parenting- Technological advances have also replaced familial bonding and fundamental parenting.  There once was a time when there was only one television in the household in which the entire family watched together.  Families also sat down at the dinner table and ate together as a family and discussed what happened during their day.  In many families today, everyone has a phone or tablet, including the smallest child.  At the age of one year old, my granddaughter already knew how to operate her mom’s cell phone.  We don’t sit down to teach our children their alphabet, we give them the tablet.  We don’t spend quality time with our children in the evening, because their on social media, listening to music or watching their own programs.  The Kaiser Family Research found that children between the ages of 8 to 18 years spend 28 hours a week watching television in various forms, including their phones and computers.   Additionally, more than 70 percent of these children have TVs in their bedrooms according to the University of Michigan Health System.   Due to the advances in technology, children have access to far more damaging material than ever before.  These shows promote violence, sexual promiscuity, and illegal activities.  These activities and can be appealing to a young developing mind.  When television, computer, and phone access are not monitored and children are exposed to content that promotes negative influences, we leave our children vulnerable to negative concepts in which they internalize and accept as normal behavior. Children are getting their values from what they see and hear instead of their parents. It’s much easier to allow children to have a device that keeps them engaged than it is to spend quality time with them.

4.      Children - According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of children with obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s.  Obese children are at a higher risk of experiencing health problems such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.  Child obesity is at an all-time high.  Video games and cell phones keep children inside, and therefore inactive.  Children prefer staying at home watching Netflix, chatting on social media, or playing the latest video game.  I hear more and more stories from children about how they spent the weekend watching Netflix.  When I was a child, we would love to go outside to jump double-dutch.  Today, most little girls don’t know how to jump double-dutch.  Little boys anxiously await the newest edition of their favorite video games, so that they can spend hours engrossed in defeating the “Final Boss.”  While I am not discounting the fact that diet plays a part in the alarming number of children who are obese, there is also a correlation with technological as well.  Children are less active than they once were, and must spend time being active to combat the possible dangers of childhood obesity.

As we continue to grow in technological advances, we must be cognizant of the potential dangers as well.   While we do enjoy the convenience and the benefits of growth, we should be intentional about utilizing it as a tool and not a crutch.  After all, “Technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master.”