With UA implementing the One to One initiative, questions are raised on the effect that technology has had on students.
By Ellise Shafer, ’17 and Dylan Carlson Sirvent, ’19
Senior Alex Hatton sits at her desk, homework spread out everywhere. Begrudgingly, she opens her AP Statistics binder and begins working problems in a notebook. However, it is not long before Hatton’s thought process is interrupted by the glowing screen of her iPhone, alerting her that she has received a text.
It only takes her a second to respond, but the lure of social media keeps her on her phone for much longer. After 10 minutes Snapchatting, 15 perusing Instagram and 20 on Twitter, she finally puts her phone down and is able to finish AP Stats and move on to her next assignment: AP German. The project requires some online research, so she turns to her school-issued Macbook Air, only to be immediately distracted when she sees the open Netflix tab from last night’s binge-watch. Finding the prospect of finishing another season irresistible, she clicks “watch next episode”, and moves her German homework to the side. Needless to say, it won’t be completed tonight.
Although the situation described could just boil down to procrastination, it may also be the result of something much more serious: technology addiction. According to The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, this phenomenon is defined as when one’s “technology or Internet use pattern interferes with their life in any way, shape or form.” Such interruptions could be as simple as pushing off homework in favor of Netflix, or as complex as avoiding plans with friends to sit home and text them instead.
As the world– particularly Generation Z– becomes more and more dependent upon devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets, concern about addiction to technology and the effect that it will have on the future increases.
With unlimited access to millions of virtual apps and games, there is no longer a need for children and teens to get off of their couch for entertainment. In fact, it has been reported by the National Wildlife Foundation that only six percent of children aged 9-13 play outside more than once in an average week.
So, how did this come to be? Most fingers point towards the ever-growing money machine that is the Internet. However, those behind the apps most popular among school-aged kids don’t seem to see the issue.
One of said apps is Vine, a platform on which video content can be instantly posted and viewed. Despite the recent increase over the last decade in use of technology among children, Rus Yusupov, co-creator of Vine, regards the issue of technology addiction to be overblown and misunderstood.
“It is very easy to point to that teenager that’s on her phone all day, and say ‘oh, she’s addicted to technology.’ People jump to this idea that technology is addictive or causes harm but really, the teenager is on her phone during dinner because she doesn’t want to be there, and she would rather be texting her friends or Snapchatting,” Yusupov said. “Danah Boyd [a well-regarded social media researcher at Microsoft] refers to social media as virtual public spaces, where one can go and be with their friends on unstructured time, something that is hard to come by today in real life.”
In addition, Yusupov warns that technology addiction is a very strong term that should not be used lightly.
“To me, technology addiction means when one cannot be physically, mentally, or emotionally separated from their devices. [Technology addicts] suffer the same symptoms and behaviors as alcoholics,” Yusupov said. “Just because one uses an iPhone all the time, doesn’t mean they are addicted.”
ADDICTION IN UA
Despite the thoughts of web developers like Yusupov, Hatton has recognized that her reliance on devices is not normal.
“I would say that I am probably addicted to technology,” Hatton said. “If I don’t have my phone out on my desk or a place where I can see it, I actually start to get a little nervous.”
However, Hatton knows that she is not the only one.
“Really, I think everyone is addicted [to technology],” Hatton said. “If you can’t be away from your phone for more than a couple of hours, I think that you might have a problem.”
Senior Henri Hegemier is another student who has found his dependence upon technology to be unsettling. He has seen its effect first hand on his school work.
“If I’m texting someone or in a group chat, sometimes I’ll do that instead of homework and then I’ll stay up later finishing homework and that does not work out very well,” Hegemier said.
Hegemier believes that this is a problem that everyone is dealing with, but that it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“I think it’s a legitimate problem,” Hegemier said. “I mean, it is pretty clear that there are people who are impaired by technology addiction and they are not able to do what they would normally do in a society because they are so attached to the technology around them.”
With the district’s recent implementation of the One to One Program, students K-12 have been given more access to technology than ever before. Hatton and Hegemier have seen both the advantages and disadvantages of UAHS becoming more tech-savvy.
“I think it’s definitely made people more dependent [upon technology]. I hesitate to say addicted since it is focused on schoolwork, but honestly in most of my classes I have not seen people do schoolwork on their laptops. Everytime we pull our laptops out I just see people playing games and watching movies,” Hegemier said. “I think people do try to use it for schoolwork and it helps out occasionally, but mostly I think the One to One program is just giving kids another way that they can be distracted in class.”
Hatton agrees that One to One has given students more opportunities to slack off, but in the end she believes that it is a valuable tool.
“I think it has made it easier to be addicted because we can text from our laptops and the teachers don’t really know. I know a lot of people who just watch Netflix in class,” Hatton said. “So, I think it has hurt that part. But, I also think it’s good that everyone can access everything when they need to and [teachers] don’t need to reserve computer labs.”
Hatton and Hegemier both expressed concerns regarding the fact that as of late August, elementary school students in Kindergarten through third grade received iPads, and fourth through fifth graders received Macbook Airs.
Senior Boyd Landis found the initiative’s purpose confusing and hard to wrap his head around.
“For me, it’s hard to think that Elementary kids need to have iPads,” Landis said. “I remember when I was a kid they made us do cursive and have a bunch of paper because once you know how to [write well] on paper, then you can start putting it online and become more efficient.”
Brian Jack, father of a fourth grade Windermere student, commends the ambition and idea behind the One to One Initiative and believes it is a very good addition to the UA community.
“I think [the One to One Initiative] is a very good program,” Jack said. “You are getting children used to technology they are going to use every day by putting it in their hands earlier so they can learn how to care for it and how to use it.”
The initiative is also a welcome addition to Angel Gonzalez, the father of fourth grade Windermere student. However, he has certain inhibitions about how the technology will be implemented.
“I hope that [the school district] has a plan for how to implement the technology,” Gonzalez said. “It is going to take time for the kids to learn how to use the computer and a lot of patience for the teachers to help them get ready. It would be a total waste of money if there is no plan or curriculum.”
The trend of praise and excitement around the One to One initiative continued with the elementary schools students. Colin Swift, a third grader, received an iPad and is enthusiastic about how it will help him and change the environment at school.
“I can look things up more easily. Like, if there is a word I don’t know, I can just look it up on the dictionary of the iPad,” Swift said.
Steve Swift, Colin’s father, congratulates the introduction of the technology and believes the initiative is absolutely essential to introducing UA students to today’s technology society.
“The teaching environment is going to be much more efficient and is gonna set us on a better course to be competitive in the global market. It is important for our kids to learn how to use this technology and become comfortable with it, that is the new world.”
Upper Arlington High School Principal Andrew Theado also stands by the district’s decision to give devices to children in grades K-5.
“The original plan was K-12 anyway, it just so happened that the Secondary [high school] students went first [in December],” Theado said. “We had a lot of conversations and we did some on-site visits [to decide] what was the best device. The elementary schools were just a semester behind.”
Although he recognizes the drawbacks to making technology more accessible to younger students, Theado believes that as long as limitations are set at school and at home, the benefits will outweigh the risks.
“Drawbacks are the amount of time that people are spending on the screen and not talking face to face, [but] one way I see elementary teachers using it would be engaging their kids differently,” Theado said. “There’s a lot of accessibility options on these devices to help kids to read, to hear their voices, to help them with other skills that they need. I think ultimately the adults in their life, be it teachers or parents just need to set boundaries.”
In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the amount of screen time that young children have per day is becoming excessive, which can lead to the development of tech addiction.
In a study conducted in 2010, the Academy found that “the average 8- to 10-year-old spends nearly eight hours a day with a variety of different media, and older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours per day.”
As reported by the Academy and other medical professionals, negative effects of such excessive use of technology can range from symptoms such as narrowed blood vessels in the eyes, pain in the wrist, neck and back to more serious mental and behavioral issues such as an increase in violent demeanor and a detrimental effect on school performance.
According to a research article written by Iowa-based researchers Martha Shaw from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Iowa and Donald W. Black from the Carver College of Medicine, such addiction has also been linked to inducing depression, social isolation, co-morbidity, mood, anxiety, impulse control and substance use disorders.
Q: What inspired you to create Vine?
A: Vine was a side project at Big Human, the tech company I founded in 2010. We set out to make it really easy to create and share videos on mobile phones.
Q: What frustrated you about the video sharing platforms before Vine?
A: At the time it was very difficult to create videos on your phone. There really wasn’t any editing capability; you would upload the videos and it would take forever. It was just really frustrating to share video.
Q: Why are the videos six seconds?
A: Well, we came up with that time frame mostly by feeling. We experimented with everything: one second, ten seconds. Six was just the happy medium. Five felt too short and seven felt too long.
Q: Were you surprised by the success of Vine and how it has been used?
A: We had our goals and ambitions. You know, we did not anticipate Daft Punk releasing a track list on Vine, or astronauts posting videos from space, or the President using this app. There are people out there who have made a career making videos on Vine. There are so many things being done, and it really is the community that has made Vine what it is today.
Although setting limitations on a specific device may seem like a tool that should only be used by Elementary students, it could prove useful for high school students as well. Hatton has made an effort to cut back on her technology use, and as a result has seen an increase in her school performance.
“Last year I wouldn’t do homework sometimes [due to technology abuse],” Hatton said. “But I’ve gotten better about that and have seen improvement, so I guess I am starting to balance those aspects out.”
Similarly, Hegemier now tries to put his devices away on special occasions, such as vacations and when hanging out with friends.
“I try to restrict [my] use,” Hegemier said. “When I go on vacation or hang out with people, I definitely try to put [my phone] away for a while.”
Although Hatton thinks that technology use should be cut down, she does not see any immediate solution to the issue.
“Maybe if we weren’t allowed to have our phones out at all during school and if we could use our computers only when the teachers said to do something and there was some way to get rid of the texting app on our computers [dependency could be lessened],” Hatton said. “But otherwise, that doesn’t seem like a possible thing.”
For Hegemier, restricting one’s use of technological devices when they are not needed for schoolwork seems to be the only reasonable solution to the problem that is device dependency.
“I think people are going to have to make changes on their own if they want to be less reliant and just start policing themselves,” Hegemier said.
Overall, although policies such as One to One have widened the materials and opportunities for Upper Arlington students of all ages can learn with, increased technology usage can have serious repercussions and result in extreme technology dependency or technology addiction. There are many questions to what it is. As of now, the only accessible solution seems to be a matter of self control, however therapy may be necessary for extreme cases.
Background: This was the first spotlight I ever wrote, and the fact I wrote it with the then editor-in-chief of the Arlingtonian, both excited me and intimidated me. However, I learned two important things from her, the first was to understand that follow-up questions are the most important, not the ones that are pre-planned, and that you cannot shy away from interviews. One of my assignments from her was to go to the middle school and interview parents and students about how they felt about the introduction of personal technology into the middle schools during device pickup. When I arrived to the middle school, I just stood around awkwardly, but eventually worked up the courage to ask one parent if I could speak to them, who immediately responded with a resounding no. I got a couple more of those, but each no made me more and more confident, and by the end I managed to interview seven parents and students (today, that number would be low for me, but at the time it was my personal record). Some of the interviews were good, most were average. But what I took away from that day was that the nervousness of just going up to strangers and asking to talk to them doesn’t really just go away, but you just have to throw yourself off the deep-end, shove down your shyness, and eventually the confidence comes naturally.