Technology is making our kids unhealthy
What an interesting debate this one turned out to be during the second half of our class Tuesday night. The agree team – made up of Aubrey, Jayme-Lee, and Jennifer – debated against an equally well-prepared disagree team – made up of Andres, Roxanne, and Heather.
Although I wasn’t surprised by the results presented by the agree team, the negative health affects from technology are staggering nonetheless. There are a myriad of physical and mental effects that technology can have on users, including, but not limited to: wrecking your spine, causing blemishes, straining your eyes, giving you a headache, and messing with your sleep. This, paired with the studies that now show the link between technology and obesity in children as well as the correlation between Facebook friends and anxiety, and the agree team had a strong case on their hands.
The amount of time that kids and teens are plugged into their devices is the true determining factor here in how technology is making our kids unhealthy. When all this time is spent in front of a screen, kids aren’t going outside to play as often as they should, or as they have in the past, and this reliance, as Kyle mentioned in his blog this week, is truly detrimental to kids’ health. Kids need to be more active, get offline, and away from all the cyberbullying that transpires online.
Or do they?
This current generation, as Heather specifically noted during the debate discussion, does not know anything different. They have grown up with technology, and the amount of time spent online is subjective to the generation using it. The notions of not using technology properly or being on social media too often or being confronted with too much cyberbullying online are problems because kids are not being taught how to use technology and social media properly or in the correct amounts, not because those outlets exist in our world. Technology is here to stay; we need to expose our kids to it and teach them how to use it so we can evolve with our tech, and not against it.
Technology will be a part of our world for the rest of our foreseeable lives. – Kristina E. Hatch, 2011
Wait, sorry, I am getting ahead of myself. There are things I will be debating in but a couple of weeks. I will stop there to avoid any spoiler alerts, or preparatory fodder for the other team.
The disagree team addressed a wide variety of ways that technology can actually help with healthy habits, such as physical health with apps like MyFitnessPal or tech gear like FitBit. Tech can also help with emotional health by connecting kids with one another and developing social awareness for the world around them (remember this!). Socially, technology can also be beneficial by growing PLNs and learning new things through educational YouTube videos and the Open Education movement. There are also motivating and fun video games, like the Xbox Kinect, the Playstation Move, and the Nintendo Wii, to get kids moving with the help of technology. As the disagree team said, kids aren’t becoming inactive because of technology; it is parenting and other factors that contribute to the obesity and unhealthy lifestyle that seems to be too prevalent in our society.
Yet again, after a well argued debate, the results gave a win to the agree team with a 61.1% win over 38.9% for the disagree team.
As it has been with the other two debates thus far, neither side is entirely accurate. As Angela noted in her blog, tech can be used for both the good and the bad. It really all comes down to education, as Jeremy’s blog perfectly argued. We need to educate students (and parents!) what proper use of technology means and how we can use it to enhance our learning, and not be detrimental to it. Yes, kids need to be physically active. But that physical activity does not come automatically if or when we abstain from technology. The two notions can co-exist if properly used in moderation. Teaching balance and moderation is key to success in any area; I wouldn’t want my students to run for ten hours straight every day, just like I wouldn’t want them to be in front of their screens for that amount of time either.
One of the notions that particularly struck me this week that was actually brought up in the discussion period was the fact that this seems to be a fairly North American problem (I believe it was Danielle who initially brought this up… correct me if I am wrong!). To be able to compare our entire society with that of another country, where technology is not as predominant (or existent at all), would be particularly effective in understanding our current use of technology and where we can improve. I personally have not had the experience to teach abroad, but I would love to simply visit another society and truly live as they do, with or without technology, to completely grasp how different it is to ours. Simply talking about it does not give it the full effect as it would to actually live it.
Then, I wonder, what if our students had those opportunities? And not simply the students who could afford to go on a learning journey like that, but all students. If we do really want to push experiential learning and growth, what better way would there be to show our students and to educate them on the over-use of technology than to have them live in another area where their access to tech is extremely limited, if existent at all? How much could they learn from a situation like that?
Of course, those situations do exist in Canada, as well. Ainsley has shared her experiences with technology up north, where it is not as accessible as it is elsewhere in the country. I believe it was Ian (again, correct me if I am wrong), who noted in the discussion that over use of technology is not only a North American problem, but a socioeconomic problem as well. If you don’t have technology because you can’t afford it, you are evidently not going to use it excessively throughout the day.
Therefore, our students can see even – in our own communities – that technology is not the be all and end all of their lives. They could live without it. It is nice to have it, it can be beneficial in many ways, but in moderation. Maybe they need to live without it to understand that. Maybe we all need to live without it to understand that.
How long could you go without the technology in your life, or simply your cell phone?