Technology: Is it making kids anti-social?

A study by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda found that students feel isolated when disconnected from their electronics, but in reality technology is isolating them from the world. (Photo illustration by Elliott Miller)
A study by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda found that students feel isolated when disconnected from their electronics, but in reality technology is isolating them from the world. (Photo illustration by Elliott Miller)

What used to be a crowded community park is now filled with silence and a few occasional visitors, thanks to technology’s effects on children.

Most children and teens spend 75 percent of their waking lives with their eyes fixed on a screen, according to a recent study performed by the International Center for Media & the Public Agenda (ICMPA). The study also found that students who unplugged their electronic devices for one 24-hour period felt extremely lonely and didn’t know how to fill their time.

The majority of today’s rising generation is not learning how to expand minds without the use of technology and social media. The prominent role social media plays in society has both increased and decreased progress in human communication.

“Gone are the days when I would get on the Internet and wait 15 minutes for the browser to load,” said Brett Huntington, a business major from Orem. “Now technology makes things happen immediately. It allows us to keep track of old friends, get immediate updates on their lives and even see current pictures.”

Social media is no longer just a social activity, and using technology is no longer just a way to pass time. It is a way of life, and problems surrounding it are making their way into society.

Lack of personal relationships

Verbal communication is essential to human development, but nonverbal communication, or body language, reveals even more about a person’s emotions. Without enough face-to-face communication, these nonverbal cues are unable to develop properly, skewing children’s relationships with others as they grow up in a technology-inclusive society.

“This media we call social is anything but … we open our computers, and it’s our doors we shut,” said video blogger Gary Turk on his recent viral YouTube video “Look Up.”

Today children are more dependent upon electronics and less dependent on human interaction. They may have an Instagram account with hundreds of followers and still feel like they do not have any friends.

“Children need to use technology at a ratio of one to five,” said Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “For every minute of tech use there should be an equivalent five minutes of time spent doing something else including talking to people, interacting with toys that promote creativity and doing activities that calm an overactive brain.”
Relationships are essential; humans are social creatures. Human nature craves human interaction, and that interaction cannot be effectively replaced by technology.

Increased risk for obesity

Excessive tech time promotes laziness and encourages children to live a sedentary lifestyle, leading indirectly to obesity. The Center for U.S. Disease Control and Prevention reported that approximately 10 percent of preschool kids, and 15 percent of children ages 6–17, are considered obese, with many others close to becoming overweight.

“Technology does everything for us,” said Ciarah Cook, an exercise science major from Orem. “We don’t need to go to the post office or the mall or the movies anymore because it’s all online. I even know some people who grocery shop online. We just don’t have to make a physical effort for anything anymore. It’s kind of concerning.”

It is estimated that children spend an average of seven hours per day in front of a screen either watching television, playing video games or using the computer, according to ICMPA. The Center for U.S. Disease Control and Prevention suggests that children eliminate at least one hour of that screen time and devote it to physical activity. This small lifestyle change could make a difference for children — especially those who are already on the path to obesity.

Low self-esteem

The impersonal communication that comes through technology and social media platforms results in arguments, opinions and unnecessarily crude remarks because the two communicating are not doing so face to face.

“People say things that are inappropriate, and they feel comfortable doing it because that buffer is present,” said Victor Johnson, a psychology major from Orem. “Cyber-bullying comes because of this. People feel like they can voice their opinions freely without regard for what the reader could be feeling or how they could be interpreting the message.”

Society’s reliance upon social media for confidence often leaves one feeling targeted, bullied and empty-handed. When people live life for a worthwhile Instagram feed, they will feel like they have come up short. It is a common misconception that real life is not depicted; rather, social media often shows an illusion of an exciting, adventurous life, documented entirely on camera.

In a technologically-advanced society, people might benefit from enjoying the most unexpected and important moments in life without documenting it for their social media profiles.

Technology will only progress as time moves forward, and teaching children the value of personal relationships will be key to ensuring success in their future endeavors.

“I believe the relationships we nurture within our families [and circle of friends] can be the most essential connections of our lives,” said Tyler Stark, of Wasatch Family Therapy. “I enjoy working with families to strengthen these relationships.”

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