By Shayna Hain, Staff Writer
The generation of today is often referred to as digital natives. Two decades ago, no one knew about cell phones, texting, blogs, or the Internet. Today’s teenagers and young adults are rarely seen without a cell phone or some other digital device glued to their sides. It is practically an epidemic. Almost every school in the United States is connected to the Internet, which is often used for visual and hands-on learning in the classroom. It can be useful for explaining difficult topics, posting homework assignments, making information easily accessible, and enabling students to grasp hard concepts. Students often use these gadgets for social networking and communication with peers, which has shown to reduce feelings of isolation and bring friends closer together. Technology enables people from all over the world to come together and enables contact between people who would otherwise never meet.
However, there are some definite drawbacks of technology. Technology is a distraction and promotes multitasking, which can often put a lot of stress on students and encourage superficial learning as opposed to in-depth learning. The term attention residue, coined in 2009, refers to the harmful effects of frequently switching between tasks. When one interrupts one task to do another, the performance for the first task is significantly lower than it would’ve been had no distractions occurred. This is because it then takes time to refocus attention on the initial task, and this residue of time adds up throughout the day, increasing stress and decreasing productivity. Multitasking, which is associated with technological use, often leads to decreased concentration and attention and subsequent reduced performance in everyday activities.
Technology becomes addictive, often dominating multiple hours of the day. This is proven by a study that was conducted that involved a sample of 8 to 18-year-old children in the United States. It found that one third of the boys and one eighth of the girls played video games every day, with children in general playing for an average of two hours per day. Many of these kids exhibited signs of technology addiction. Adolescents stated that video games took time away from their homework, which resulted in bad grades. Many even admitted that they used video games to escape their problems or to help them cope.
An article published by The New York Times, called “Stop Letting Modern Distractions Steal Your Attention,” discussed the importance of “unplugging” from technology, at least for short periods of time. Dr. Rock, the CEO of the Neuroleadership Institute and author of “Your Brain at Work,” explains that when he needs to be productive, he goes offline. Otherwise, there are too many distractions and focusing becomes impossible. The American Psychological Association published a study in 2017 stating that being constantly engaged in technology and social media is associated with higher stress levels. Linda Stone, former Apple and Microsoft executive, describes this state of always being reachable as Continuous Partial Attention (CPA), in which one is always accessible to anyone and everyone via technology. This is due to the desire to not miss out on anything (also called FOMO). This state of CPA contributes to an easily distractible, high stress lifestyle, in which it is hard to fully pay attention to anything.
The question therein remains: what can be done to lessen our addiction and increase productivity? After all, despite the benefits of technology, there are times we need to intentionally make ourselves unavailable to preserve our own sanity. One way to go about this may be to set boundaries and times during which one is unreachable. For example, establishing a period of 45 minutes at a time when one doesn’t go on their phone and then taking a 15-minute break, or trying a 24-hour “cleanse.” In addition, it could be helpful to leave behind one’s phone at certain times, or when going to specific places, and to instead try to connect to their friends and surroundings more. Establishing a no-phone zone is also helpful. Not only will you be calmer, but when your mind is blank, you are more open to new ideas and possibilities.