‘You don’t know how good you have it’, ‘We weren’t so lucky in my day’ just a snippet of the clichés we have all heard at some stage of our childhood. Of course you could argue that this is an inevitable occurrence amongst all generations, as the process of modernisation in the most developed societies of the world constantly ‘upgrades’ our lives. Now, I may sound like a parent, but I feel recent technological advancements have in fact hindered the personal development of many young people in the world. Indeed this fear is also held by Guardian journalist Matthew Yeomans: ‘As I try to create a digital experience children will find so much fun that they’ll tell all their friends, I’m aware that I might be contributing to a growing childhood development problem’. So what is this problem? Technology is polluting and dominating children’s minds, leading to a lack of social skills and motivation to work.

Over the last fifty years or so, the world has undergone a massive technological shift towards ‘modernity’ through the digital and information revolutions. Perhaps the issue at hand could be traced to the increased accessibility of mobile phones and the television in the 1940s or the internet in 1989.  Yet the rapid development of the innovative technology I am concerned with, has occurred much more recently. In the twenty-first century technology has advanced at a phenomenal speed, and all for our convenience. It is this development which I feel, has of course heightened procrastination levels, but more worryingly made many young people lazy and lacking in motivation and life skills.

The effect of technology on productivity is clearly visible amongst many young people today. For example, a Kaiser Family Foundation Study in 2010 found that young people in the US spent more than seven and a half hours a day using media. Sure technology can be an extremely useful tool to facilitate your studies and provide important information about all walks of life. Yet as we can see, the issue is, most young people use it excessively for un-educative and time-consuming exercises such as gaming. These leisure activities are of course fine in moderation, but I worry that an obsession with them will be detrimental to the development of young people worldwide. Perhaps our parents were right after all ‘staring at a screen for too long makes your eyes square’ and ‘watching too much TV kills brain cells’!

The thing is, we’ve all been there. Those moments where you cave in to your device, to the detriment of your productivity. Whether it’s: texting; online shopping; social media or of course, those unavoidable cat videos that litter YouTube. Sometimes it’s instinctive. You open your browser and the first thing you do is open Twitter or Facebook to check what your ‘friends’ have done that day. Once you have finished indulging yourself in the mediocrities of all the lives of people you remotely know, hours have passed and you tell yourself you no longer have time to do your reading for tomorrow’s seminar. I have certainly been guilty of this latter point before.

Of course we recognise that these distractions are far from ideal when we remember that there was work we should have been doing. But we continue to make the same mistakes. Now, reading this you may be thinking, it’s each individual’s own fault and that they will get their priorities right eventually. This may be the case, but what of the young children in primary and secondary schools who are indulging in the web for leisure? Amongst other quite unbelievable statistics about US children of age eight and below, unearthed by Dr Brent Conrad, is that 67 per cent of these children own a video game system.

Believe it or not, many primary school kids are involved in social media. Sure Facebook state that: ‘To be eligible to sign up for Facebook, you must be at least 13 years old’. Yet there is nothing to stop a child under that age setting up an account and posing as a 13 year old. I fear that the increased ease of access to any sort of content on the web could lead to many children being exposed to things they should not be. Just stop and think for a second, when did you first learn of a swear word or pornography? I don’t think I did until at least secondary school. Nowadays children understand and use expletives and have been exposed to pornography at an earlier stage of their life.

Not only is technology making young children aware of these things at a younger age, but it has some children addicted. It seems that for many children nowadays, the suggestion of reading a book is completely absurd. Hell, a friend told me of an instance where they met a child aged nine, who had not heard of Harry Potter! Rest assured, the child’s parent was thoroughly reprimanded. Put simply, education appears boring to kids when video games are an option. I remember for ages I desperately wanted a games console as all of my friends had one. To my delight, my parents eventually caved in, however looking back I wish they had resisted completely.  Kids become obsessed with these things. My brother should be studying for his GCSEs this year, yet every time I see him, he is staring at his phone. Many young people are hooked on their devices and I fear that it is causing them to lack social skills and to underachieve.

The heights of this addiction can clearly be seen with cases of children running up massive bills on their family members’ credit cards due to the in-game upgrades and rewards of some apps. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2205555/Schoolboy-massive-credit-card-playing-iPad-Tiny-Monsters-app.html)

This obsession is not just limited to the western world either, Matthew Yeomans states that: ‘In South Korea, one of the most digitally advanced nations in the world, government estimates 2.55 million people are addicted to smartphone (using them for more than eight hours a day)’.

In some ways, this problem leaves me craving for a previous time where things were simpler. However, surely we must ultimately embrace these technological developments and learn to curtail our tendencies for idle browsing and obsessive behaviour. For a lot of us, this may prove difficult, but certainly reasonable. Yet I fear that there are many young people out there who, without radical action, may, for now, be lost to the addictive allure of technology.

Perhaps we should all pay attention to Susan Maushart’s book: The Winter of Our Disconnect: How One Family Pulled the Plug and Lived to Tell/Text/Tweet the Tale, which provides an interesting alternative, with a tale of a family’s life without technology in the twenty-first century.

 

Sources:

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/children-consuming-too-much-digital-technology https://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/8010.pdf http://www.techaddiction.ca/children-and-technology.html https://www.facebook.com/help/210644045634222/ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2205555/Schoolboy-massive-credit-card-playing-iPad-Tiny-Monsters-app.html http://www.amazon.co.uk/Winter-Our-Disconnect-Family-Pulled/dp/184668465X