Technology may be a double-edged sword, but we kind of need it now.

Does technology HAVE to be as unhealthy as we've allowed it to become? SOURCE: GOOGLE IMAGES

We had a really interesting debate in our EC&I 830 class Tuesday night revolving around the question of whether or not technology is unhealthy for kids. Coincidentally, my team, which consisted of Heather, Roxanne and myself, had the pleasure of defending the “disagreeing” side of the argument.

The opposing team (made up of fellow classmates Aubree, Jaymee and Jennifer) brought up some really strong arguments that definitely made for a fun debate. The team posted a Prezi presentation that broke down all of their arguments in detail, using solid evidence that demonstrated how technology has been affecting humans physically, emotionally, mentally and socially.

Here’s a quick list of some of the big points that really stood out to me:

– Physically, technology has been affecting us in more ways than just spikes in obesity and inactivity. For one, device use, such as laptops, gaming and cellphones are causing a lot of unnecessary pressure on the back and neck. Bacteria buildup on cell phones for example, are linked to skin conditions; Wi-Fi signals have been linked to lowering sperm count; and prolonged screen time can cause vision problems and headaches.

– People are so glued to their devices that they are forgetting to be active and getting out of the house, which can have great effects on our social and mental well-being.

– Videogames are making our kids more aggressive in nature, desensitizing them to extremely violent and explicit content. Furthermore, online gambling sites are contributing to gambling addictions and other unhealthy habits.

– Kids are spending on average, 7 hours a day with technology. Due to sedentary screen-time and social media, we’re seeing a rise in mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. Technology is affecting our moods and even disrupting peoples’ sleeping patterns. We’re seeing spikes in hyperactivity in young children and more and more examples of kids becoming completely addicted to technology.

– Socially, kids are engaging far less in face-to-face conversations. Most contact between friends and family is online, and even family time is being greatly affected.

The video in their opening statement did a great job of tying everything together. I definitely got a kick out of it.

If you are interested in doing some further reading, here are the links to the articles and videos Aubree, Jennifer and Jaymee used for their debate:

Obesity in Children and Technology

5 Crazy Ways Social Media Is Changing Your Brain Right Now

Sneaky Ways Technology Is Messing With Your Body And Mind

Our opponents used some great arguments, backed up by data and examples that we’ve all undoubtedly witnessed ourselves. One of their strongest statements that resonated with me the most was when they said “it’s not that technology CAN be unhealthy, technology IS unhealthy”. It’s pretty hard to deny the fact that internet and device addiction IS a real thing. I mean, who am I kidding? I use my phone all day, every day. Whether it’s me peeking at my notifications during a break in the work day, or I’m blasting some sick tunes at the gym, my IPhone is going ALL DAY. Even when they were talking about the physical effects technology has on people, I was able to relate. I know a thing or two about back pain, and whenever I’m working on a long paper, I’m noticing more and more how bad sitting for 8+ hours can be on the body. I’ve even noticed that my vision has been getting more blurry in recent years too. This isn’t some placebo effect, these things are really happening!

This is the only “gearing up” GIF I could find. Kinda Bad Ass to be honest.
SOURCE: GIPHY

This is where we geared-up and put together some rebuttal arguments to set the record straight. Although technology has its negative aspects, our defense revolved around the idea that we need to start adjusting ourselves to these great changes that have quickly taken over every aspect of our society. Technology isn’t all bad, whether you’re using it to benefit your health, like keeping track of your vitals or your dietary habits; or using social media to stand up against bullying, technology can definitely be applied in ways where we can help improve our social, mental, physical and intellectual health.

In the article I used: “Researchers: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need Some Online Risk”, author Dian Schaffhauser addresses the fact that teenagers should be learning from their experiences from online risks, rather than abstaining or withdrawing from online activities. She states the importance of building a trusting relationship with our youth by staying up-to-date with the latest online trends. By staying in touch with what our kids are doing online, we can provide them with valuable strategies and solutions for realistic scenarios that they will more than likely run into.

Roxanne used Kristina E. Hatch’s article “Determining the effects of technology children”. Here are some quick annotation notes she wrote about her article:

“As technology continues to accelerate, society has become more reliant upon it. It has developed to be an indispensable part of Adult’s daily lives. Therefore it is no surprise to observe that today’s children are subject to it as well. This article examines the effects of technology on children by focusing on both the Pros and Cons of technology. Hatch suggests that in order to discover and understand the effects of technology on children, both sides of the argument need to be carefully analyzed.”

Heather took a different approach and included a link to an article with some excellent resources that could be used in the classroom and at schools. Her article “Turning bystanders into upstanders against bullying”, as she describes in her annotation notes:

“includes a list of videos, which also serve as resources or examples teachers can include in lessons with students at various grade levels, to show examples of young people using technology in positive/healthy ways to prevent bullying, better known as upstanders.”

Heather also made our introductory video, which summarized all of our main arguments. I highly recommend you check it out, it’s pretty awesome.

Now, after taking a bit of a breather and a few steps back, it really helps to look back at all the evidence from both sides. On one end, we really can’t deny the fact that technology has contributed to some pretty nasty stuff. Children ARE much more inactive than they ever have been. There’s no point even denying that… I mean, how many hours a day do I spend online? As a society, We ARE IN FACT, quite addicted to our devices and social media. Not only that, but all the online risks our kids (and us) are facing these days is without a doubt overwhelming and quite frightening. Cyberbullying and online harassment are not only emotionally damaging, but are causing giant spikes in mental health issues.

Maybe you should take a little break there…
SOURCE: GIPHY

Technology, like most things, can definitely be bad. And really, if it’s causing all these problems (which it is), we can’t just sweep the technological advancements that we have nowadays, under the rug. If anything, we’re nearing a point where we’re going to begin making even bigger strides in technological advancements, what are we going to do then?

What I believe, is that we’ve advanced so quickly, that we’re not keeping up. I’m thankful to be working at a school with middle years kids. These kids are totally in-tune with what’s happening right now. They are 100% immersed in what society has and will become. I’m keeping up, because of THEM!

Unlike me, they were born right into a world with internet, social media and hyper-realistic videogames. I’m noticing that as the years go by, younger and younger kids know how to do much more complicated tasks than kids their same age did even a few years ago. Not only do kids know how to use these tools, they are learning to use them even earlier and earlier in their lives. This isn’t a formal fact, but it’s an observation I’ve made throughout the years. The same goes with cellphones. Even five years ago, the kids that had phones at my elementary school, were mostly the grade 7 and 8 students (and not many of them did). Now, just about every kid (in every grade), has a device or phone. What happened? But seriously… what actually happened?!

What I’m trying to say is that, regardless of the negative effects technology has on our health, technology is here to stay, so we need to start taking more realistic approaches to address it. I really liked the article I used for my debate because it brought up this exact question. As much as we don’t want it to happen, the reality is, kids are prone to running into sexual predators and bullies online. Social media can lead to security breaches, and personal information can be misused against you in many ways. There are tons of dangers and things we don’t want our kids knowing or learning about (or being exposed to), but everything is literally just sitting there, and unless you don’t address it or actually do anything about it, they’re going to find it!

“Ugh! Dude, what’s your Wi-FI password?!
SOURCE: GIPHY

Since kids are learning how to use devices the second they come into this world, why aren’t we just teaching them HOW to use all of these things? Why aren’t we teaching them WHAT to do when someone asks you to send them a nude photo of yourself? Why aren’t we telling them what kind of information we should be sharing on our Facebook accounts? Or how about, what kind of people we follow or become friends with on Instagram or SnapChat? Oh right, I forgot, a lot of us don’t actually know these things. You see, tech has advanced so quickly, that keeping up isn’t so easy anymore.

You can’t expect the same things to be popular a year from now either. When you’ve finally re-bought your entire VHS collection in DVD’s, only to realize that in that time, we’ve moved on from Blue-Ray disks, to 4K digital streams that don’t require any physical material! For baby boomers and even generation X, these changes are probably really hard to keep up with. Nowadays, ten years in the tech world might as well be 100 years. I mean, the advancements we make in 6 months is mind-blowing, keeping up isn’t just something we should strive for, I think it’s something we HAVE to do.

I know I’m striving away from the debate topic, but I think this is part of the big answer. Although we need to teach kids how to use technology in moderation, we really can’t expect them not to use it. I think the responsible thing in this day and age is to teach online citizenship and knowing when and where to use tech. At the same time, we (the parents, the teachers, the baby boomers, the generations X’s and Y’s) NEED to keep up. We need to be jumping into the deep end, because the more people that start using and embracing these technologies, the more people we’ll have, that can start adapting and making changes to the way we USE tech in our lives. Also, the more we keep up, the more approachable WE become when kids need help. If we don’t know anything about their world, WHY ON EARTH would they seek help from US!? EXACTLY! They WON’T!

Even things like videogames are evolving at a great scale. You aren’t just sitting and holding a controller anymore. A decade ago we were introduced to the Nintendo Wii, which involved arm movements to control your actions in games. Then we had the XBOX Kinect which introduced movement tracking technology, allowing players to use their entire bodies as controllers. Then we started seeing “exergaming”, which allowed players to get a full workout in, WHILE gaming. And now. Ah, now we have virtual reality that’s actually IMMERSING US PHYSICALLY in these worlds in full 5-D (What the hell is that?!?!): YOU HAVE TO CHECK THIS OUT IF YOU HAVEN’T YET because it’s MINDBLOWING!

Yeah, this isn’t something that everyone will have in their living rooms, but its change. The same goes with technological tools that are motivating us to get fit, keep track of our progress, our vitals and our fitness goals. None of these things are perfect yet, and yes, we can tear all these things apart, but there’s no questioning it, technology is being integrated in our lives in new and helpful ways. Furthermore, studies have shown that kids who online game, develop many skills such as being able to divide up leadership roles and recognizing one another’s strengths and weaknesses in order to complete tasks as a team. Kids learn to work cooperatively and learn to strategize under pressure. I mean, it’s not the strongest argument, but it’s definitely a different way of looking at how kids can benefit from games such as Call of Duty.

Before I end my blog post, I’d like to share these two videos. Please be advised that the videos do contain strong language, but they are definitely worth a watch.

The first video shows teens reacting to 90’s internet (14 to 19 year olds). The video is quite entertaining and we get a lot of insight as to what kids are like these days. This might be a small sample of teenagers, but I’d say they are a good representation of how kids and teens view the world nowadays.

The second video is of elders reacting to world-famous YouTuber and vlogger PewDiePie. To me, this is the pinnacle of a generation gap. These are two worlds colliding, and although it’s pretty comedic to watch, it’s eye-opening to see some of the commentary that comes out of this.

If anything, I’m posting this so that we see exactly how “disconnected” we are from our pasts, and even our futures. Older generations have no clue exactly what kids these days are into. Kids these days have no clue what it was like not to have internet. What are the differences? Well, they’re both pretty clueless of each other, but once you guys check these videos out, please let me know what YOU THINK of this cross-generational gap. I for one think we need to start bridging it a bit, there’s a lot that can be learned on BOTH sides!

TEENS REACT TO 90s INTERNET

ELDERS REACT TO PEWDIEPIE

In closing, I don’t think there’s an easy answer to whether or not technology is healthy or unhealthy for our kids. Obviously there is evidence showing us the negatives, but we also have some strong opposing ideas that prove that technology can help us even become healthier in many ways. What I think we need to take away from this is that we need to accept these challenges and adapt to them so that we maximize technology’s potentials, rather than it’s ugly, addicting and damaging side.

Dre

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9 thoughts on “Technology may be a double-edged sword, but we kind of need it now.”

  1. So I just watched that clip of The Void, and yup. Mind is blown. This is just proof that we don’t really know what the future will bring for our kids, our students and ourselves. When you said that you were getting off topic from the debate, I disagree…you are right on par. I appreciate your take on this issue and that you shared your experiences and some personal thoughts, doing this made you relatable to me as I was reading your work. I think you bring up a really great point, that if we don’t keep up, we will not be approachable when kids need help. This post stretched my thinking a bit and you brought up new points that I have not yet thought about. Rather than agree or disagree, I just appreciate when I get the chance to look at things from a different perspective and you have given me that chance with your writing, so thanks for that!

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    1. Thanks for the input, I really appreciate hearing back and seeing what others have to say about some of these angles I’m trying to make. And I’m glad you checked out that Void video. I really don’t think people are aware of exactly how quick our technology is changing, and how it’s being applied. I mean, what could all that mean to education? I wonder how something like that could be used to help expand on our curricula. Imagine “traveling” anywhere around the world, taking tours of ancient ruins and worlds that don’t even exist anymore. I know we’re far away from this at a mainstream level, but once it’s accessible to everyone, this could really shake things up!

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  2. Great video of teens’ reactions to 90s internet – I will never forget the internet dial tone! The video really helps to put things into perspective in terms of how quickly things have changed with technology. Just imagine how much more common place technology will be in another 20-30 years. I imagine that a debate about the unhealthiness of technology would never cross a person’s mind!

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    1. I got a huge kick out of both videos, I couldn’t resist posting them on my blog. It’s funny how being from Generation Y, you sort of forget how much everything has changed in our lifetime. These videos put a lot in perspective. The elders reacting to PewDiePie is a good example of what kids are into these days. When I found out kids were watching videos of people playing and commentating on video games, I was JUST as confused as they were. I’m trying my best to stay as connected to our youth as possible, but even I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up. As long as we all put some effort, it can get done! Thanks for the reply Ainsley, I appreciate it!

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  3. Great post Dre. I think you’re so right…tech is here to stay and we need to teach students skills in maneuvering online and being good digital citizens. I think it’s a great step that they Digital Citizenship Education in Saskatchewan Schools documents has a section on Digital Health and Wellness. One of its key considerations is “ensuring that students and staff are aware of the health risks of overuse of technology”. I think this needs to be a vital element of all SK Health curriculum. http://publications.gov.sk.ca/documents/11/83322-DC%20Guide%20-%20ENGLISH%202.pdf

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    1. Thanks for the great reply Erin. I wasn’t aware of this document, it’s definitely an interesting read and I’m glad some of these issues are being addressed by the SK health curriculum. I’m just wondering how often, and to what extent we should be modifying and updating these documents to adapt to the quick changes we’re seeing with technology in our classrooms.

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