I was fortunate enough to participate in this week’s debate about a topic that I am very passionate about. As a physical education teacher I often focus on the physical aspects however technology has also had an impact on our children’s mental health and social well-being.
In regards to mental health some of the negative impacts that technology has on our children are: lack of sleep, suicidal thoughts, addictive behaviours, increase in aggression, depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. As an educator I often see children coming to school tired, they were up late last playing video games, watching television etc. Children are not aware that their decisions to stay up late and use some form of technology is not only affecting their sleep but it is also affecting their development, their learning, their relationships etc. Students who are tired are hard to teach as their focus is on other things rather than on learning and/or being engaged within the classroom.
The social wellbeing of our students is also being affected by technology. Our children are becoming addicted to technology, they are unable to put down their phones, ipods, video games etc. and have a conversation or spend quality time with family. Student’s communication skills are on a slow decline as we are beginning to rely solely on technology and seeing fewer chances to be engaged in conversation with others. Students who use technology are unable to escape cyber bullying. Prior to technology, bullying existed however students were able to leave it at school. Today students are unable to leave bullying, they leave school and are now being bullied at home as well. Is cyberbullying leading to some of our mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, aggression, suicidal thoughts?
According to a study in the United States one third of American Children are obese/overweight, technology is definitely a huge part of these numbers. When children are so heavily involved with their technology they forget about being active, playing and enjoying nature. The average child spends roughly seven hours each day watching television, playing video games, browsing the internet etc. (American Pediatrics) Children who are gaming, watching television etc. are more likely to be snacking while doing so, these snacks are often convenience foods rather than healthy choices. A study completed in 2014 by American Medical Association concluded that if the show the children are watching is more stimulating then the likelihood they will be snacking more than if the show were to provide less stimulation. The lack of exercise and the increase in snacking provides us with high obesity statistics which has direct correlation to technology.
Technology has a way of reaching children with a variety of means. One significant way they have reached their audience has been through commercials. There was a report done in 2008 by the American Dietetic Association that states nine of 10 commercials during a Saturday morning program focus on low nutrient foods that have a high fat content, sodium and added sugars. These food marketers are directly targeting our children because our children do not have the background knowledge to realize these are unhealthy and detrimental to their health.
Technology interferes with our sleep. We are unable to turn the television off, put our phone down etc. When we lack sleep it causes an increase in ghrelin, this is a hormone in our body that tells us when we are hungry, we also notice a decrease in leptin which is a hormone that tells us we are full. It is proven on average that a person who lacks sleep will consume an additional 300 calories a day, this is because our lack of sleep is producing more ghrelin which in turn is telling us we are hungry rather than sleepy.
- Staring at our phones may be hurting our backs. We are putting additional pressure on our neck that is unnecessary.
- Sitting in front of a computer all day can be detrimental to our backs
- Believe it or not our phones can cause blemishes. Think about the excess germs and bacteria on your phone, which ends up on your hands and eventually onto your face.
- Did you know that a study in 2011 found that men who were exposed to wifi had lower sperm count
- Text messaging can be causing irritation or tensions on your fingers, hands, forearms.
- Too much screen time can strain your eyes, this can cause your vision to become blurry or dry out your eyes.
- May experience headaches from digital eye strain (too much screen time)
As a physical education teacher I am an advocate for being physically active on a daily basis. I am finding that throughout the last 6 years of my teaching there has been a huge decrease in students who are physically active in and out of school and a significant increase of students who discuss and/or engage in some form of technology whether that be texting, video games, browsing the internet etc. Each week I leave my students with a challenge for the weekend, often times it will be to spend at least two hours each day outside being active and limit your technology use. I often get a response from students saying that is impossible! It is a goal of mine not to devalue the importance of technology or to completely ban it but to bring to light the importance of being physically active for your own health and well-being, and find ways to limit your screen time but be productive and enjoy the time when you are using your technology.
Our opponents did bring up some valid points some of which included technology creates an environment where we can feel connected and supported. Technology can raise awareness through a variety of mediums, we often see things such as go fund me pages etc. We begin to feel a sense of self appreciation and are able to maintain relationships with people despite distance. They also thought that technology was improving writing and communication skills. To be honest I use technology on a daily basis and cannot imagine my life without it, however like anything in life things are okay in moderation and I do believe that technology has been a useful tool for me in my personal and professional life. In regards to the points brought up by our opponents. I do agree that technology can make us feel connected and supported, however there are instances where the opposite could be occurring. We could be experiencing cyberbullying or be involved in some negative experiences online that in turn would not make us feel supported or connected. Technology is a great way to raise awareness, nevertheless we as users need to be aware of legit sites and things going on around us and not fall into scams and people who are trying to take advantage of us. I do agree that technology has been able to maintain relationships with others despite distance. I have many friends and family who do not live close and I am able to communicate and maintain close knit relationships with them thanks to technology. Our opponent brought up the point of technology improving our communication and writing skills, to be honest I see it doing the complete opposite. Social media sites, texting, snap chat etc. are full of abbreviations etc. and I am often seeing students transfer these abbreviations and bad writing habits into their daily work. As for communication skills I also think it is doing the opposite, for one I am a prime example. I would send text messages to friends rather than calling them, what happened to an old school quick phone call that was over and done within two minutes rather than sending 20 texts back and forth to figure out the plan! Overall I think our opponent did a great job and it was a tough decision for our classmates, however I am sticking to technology is making our kids unhealthy, if they choose!!! Choice is key, students can choose to use technology in moderation which will allow them to be more active, have better mental health and social well-being.