Opinion: Students should recognize technology's impact
Technology surrounds people every day and impacts life in a variety of ways. Students spend most of their days using technology, writing essays, searching the internet, updating social media and messaging friends or professors for various reasons. Laptops, tablets and cellphones offer endless connection. While technology is undoubtedly beneficial, it has drawbacks as well. Concerns have been raised about loss of human connection, declining mental health in young people, distraction and wasted time. Young adults should be conscious of how much time they spend on their devices, especially on their phones, and some of the negative effects of technology use.
One of the biggest concerns brought up regarding the world’s growing technology use is that face-to-face human interaction is declining. A study done at Elon University found that 97 percent of students said they bring their phones or tablets with them every time they leave the house, and all of the interviewed students said they use their phones in the presence of friends and family. The majority of students also expressed the belief that technology negatively influences in-person communication. Elon University’s study concluded with the observation that young people are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to communicate with people who are not with them and, as a result, personal engagement with those physically around them is neglected.
Davis Bowler (‘23) expressed similar sentiments to the students in the study, saying, “Phone use takes away from certain social settings. If I’m in a small group and someone is constantly on their phone, it’s not as fun.”
When asked if she ever uses her phone to avoid social interaction, Lucia Bojorquez (‘20) said: “I think it’s easier to be on your phone than have to be awkward in a conversation. If you are on your phone, people assume you’re doing something so they won’t come up to you and ask you questions.”
Phones have become barriers in the social sphere, offering easy ways for students to ignore their surroundings and creating awkward spaces where people are not sure how to interact.
According to Brookings, this attitude toward technology can have real consequences. “As we grow older, time spent on devices often replaces time spent engaging in physical activity or socially with other people, and it can even become a substitute for emotional regulation, which is detrimental to physical, social and emotional development.”
Aside from changing the ways people interact, technology has drastically changed the educational sphere. While many of the changes are positive, cell phones offer yet another distraction to studying, making procrastination easier for college students. Laetitia Mihigo (‘23) spoke about the difficulties of having her phone on while she studies: “I’ll be like, I’m gonna do my homework, but as soon as I hear that ding I check my phone.” Colin Fisher (‘20) added, “I turn my phone off when I’m studying. I use the daily app restriction. If I’m not careful though, it definitely distracts me.”
A study done at the University of South Carolina found students use their phones in class and admit to knowing that their ability to pay attention goes down as they feel the need to check their phones. The study says that attention spans have decreased drastically. On top of this, it found that “four of five college students report feeling anxiety, stress or isolation when asked to unplug from their cell phones for just one day,” illustrating the immense dependence on technology young people experience today.
Given the blatant negative effects technology can have on students, they should be taking measures to limit unnecessary screen time and pay attention to their surroundings. As Fisher mentioned, many phones today have a feature that can limit app use and another that keeps track of screen time and time spent on apps. Using tools such as these, students can make conscious efforts to become more connected with their peers, interact face-to-face and improve study habits.