April 13, 2024
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April 13, 2024
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The Impact of Technology on Students

If you give a smartphone or a tablet to a toddler, they will figure out how to open it and make some app purchases in a matter of seconds. The technology explosion has made children very tech-savvy at a very young age. Elementary school students have been using their computers and tablets at home years before they started school. Children are mastering technology at a very young age. However, with all this constant engagement with technology, there are some real concerns about how this tech impacts childhood development. We are migrating into unknown territory. In the past we have never had this kind of relentless technological immersion. Experts are starting to be concerned about what technology at this level can do to children and their future.

Children have access to screens all around them. Many homes have multiple television sets, computers, tablets and phones. Some young children have access to their own tablet and phone. Children and teenagers spend hours each day online. That time adds up, and many young people are spending more time with technology than they do in school. Teenagers send thousands of text messages each month, stay up until 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. scrolling social media, and spend hours each day playing video games. This has continued to get more intense over time, as more apps and options arise to distract kids.

There are clearly negative impacts of technology usage; there are also positive aspects. The real question is: What can parents and teachers do to harness technology in useful ways, without letting kids become slaves to it and the negative effects it can have on their lives?

The many educational aspects of technology can help children learn. There are many things that children can be exposed to that can help develop their mind and teach them new things. Many teachers use technology in classrooms to help students learn. Technology helps teachers reach different kinds of learners, reinforce and expand concepts, and motivate students in new ways. As more teachers embrace technology, new kinds of learning can take place in classrooms, and more students can be reached in ways in which they relate.

Technology has been present ever since mankind began to harness nature. But, in the last century it has become more present, to a point where it is not a mere add-on, but rather indispensable to our lifestyles. Three hundred hours of video are uploaded on YouTube every minute, and almost 5 billion videos are watched every single day. Digital devices such as computers, tablets, iPads, word processors, emails and the Internet have entered the classroom and altered the face of teaching and learning. Teachers are encouraged to use technology as frequently as they can and students are exposed daily to large amounts of information reaching them via a variety of technological devices. As we praise the positive effect of inserting technologies into the normal course of instruction on students’ performance, there is a growing body of research showing the negative effect it might also bring.

Various studies have shown that the use of technology does not necessarily improve the performance or learning skills of students. There have been signs of negative impacts on writing skills among students. When using digital tools, they have a tendency to write quickly and carelessly, using more and more abbreviations. In addition, high school students in a survey acknowledged having cheated during exams, saying that technology had its part to play by making it easier to cheat.

Technology has a direct impact on attention spans. The immediacy of technological interactions make waiting harder for children. With technology, they don’t have to wait. They don’t get bored because they always have something to entertain them. Technology moves fast; instant responses and instant gratification are impacting attention spans for young children and teenagers alike. In addition, technology has created an increase of theft, privacy issues, harassment and more. The IT industry needs to make technology more safe for children.

Nationally, teenagers and children who report more time using media are more likely to also report mental health issues such as depression and increased suicidal thoughts. This has led to more youth needing mental health interventions.

Children who spend more time inside on their phones or tablets don’t spend as much time running and playing outside. They establish habits of technology use that don’t involve exercise. This can lead to increased obesity rates in children and young adults. Many students today can see their grades take a hit when they spend more time with technology. Increasing technology usage means less time spent on homework. The kind of developmental changes technology can bring can make students struggle with homework like reading and writing.

As technology flourishes, so does cyber-bullying. Children and teens are using technology and social media to bully other kids, without having to face them.

With more time spent on technology, younger children are having issues with face-to-face social interactions. Many seem to prefer to text or talk on social media as opposed to talking to each other in person. Even when children spend time together, they may spend more time texting or on their phones than actually being together.

The four main ways technology can impact negatively on the education process: the deterioration of students’ competencies in reading, writing and arithmetic, which are the basic three skills any student is expected to master; the dehumanization of education in many environments and the distortion of the relationship between teachers and students; the isolation of students in a digital and virtual world that distances them from any form of social interaction; and the deepening of social inequalities between the haves and the have-nots, that is, students who can possess technology and those who cannot.

This is not to say that technology does not improve students’ academic achievement or enhance their motivation to accomplish their tasks, yet too much reliance on technology also seems to negatively affect their reading, writing and arithmetic skills, which is normal when typing is preferred to writing, or when reading PDF and Word files is preferred to paper books or magazines. The proper use of punctuation is a good example, where texting has had a negative influence. Regarding arithmetic, the use of calculators has negatively impacted the ability of the students to reach the right conclusion. Math and arithmetic are, in their purest forms, subjects that promote discovery, exploration and critical thinking.

The over-reliance on technology in classrooms has created a barrier between teachers and their students, as they communicate directly via a machine. It is therefore difficult for teachers to entertain a healthy relationship with their students and have an impact on them. This generates a higher level of anxiety among students. Overall, it leads to eroding the social relationships involved in teaching, thereby eroding one of the main aims of education. Technology has a cocooning effect and gives us the illusion of comfort while depriving us of our need for social interaction and collaboration, often leading to a feeling of loneliness.

While our use and continued integration of technology has led to substantial changes in our society and in the way students learn and teachers teach, there is still time to mitigate the negative effects and “harness the good.” This could be done by promoting human interaction, communication and collaboration, by sharing and comparing works and projects to help better connect learners and by encouraging “tech-savvy students” to design interactive content that would enrich their learning.

Our obsession with technology needs supervision and reflection, otherwise it can lead to numerous problems that can in some cases be extreme. We should be careful not to be so blinded by the good aspects brought by technology that we fail to pay attention to its negative consequences.

Dr. Wallace Greene is the incoming principal of Yeshiva Keren HaTorah of Passaic-Clifton.

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