Technology affects the mind, study finds
A January 2011 study by Kaiser Permanente focused on whether recent technology is hindering teenagers’ ability to learn.
The five-year study found that time spent on technology has increased from about an hour a day to seven hours a day. It also showed that half of all heavy media users had average to poor grades in school, compared to a fourth of light media users. Heavy media users were also reported more likely to get bored and thus have a shorter attention span.
Benefits of technology
According to Biola psychology professor Pete Hill, technology may actually be beneficial for brain development.
“But for the field as whole, the jury is still out,” Hill said. “We don’t know at this point as to what it’s doing to brain development. In my opinion, it creates an ability to multitask and think and juggle multiple thoughts that sometimes is necessary. We can’t always be linear in the way we attack the issues of life.”
In a January 2011 PBS special, it examined if multitasking prohibits us from doing well on a single task. Hill said people have had to multitask long before the digital age.
“Mother speaks on the phone, caring for children–– it’s part of succeeding in the demands of everyday life,” said Hill. “Practice helps as we develop; multitasking is not just part of the digital age. It has always been around, even before the digital world, it has just existed in a different form in different generations.”
Relationship between technology and stress
Hill said he believes that people in general perceive life as more fast-paced.
“I do not think that technology has added to stress,” Hill said. “I’m probably a minority in my opinion.”
“We get bored if there is only one thing to focus on,” said Hill.
Sophomore Rachel Sornoso estimated that technology takes up 50 percent of her day. Sophomore Brittany Watts said she does not need to calculate how much time she spends using technology because she knows she spends a lot of time on digital things–– all day even.
Technology as a distraction
“I think it can be distracting, but it depends,” sophomore Cody Ramaekers said, echoing Sornoso’s response.
Ramaekers said he believes technology to be both distracting and beneficial.
“Both have pros and cons,” said Sornoso.
“The Internet is very accessible to resources, but has lots of distractions like Facebook,” said Sornoso
In the Kaiser study, it found that across the age group of 8-year-olds to 18-year-olds, 40 percent spend at least one hour on Facebook.
Both Sornoso and Ramaekers agreed that they learn more from the time they spend on computers, especially Ramaekers, who is a film major.
Pros and cons of multi-tasking
Watts agreed with the PBS special, and said it is possible for multitasking to prohibit someone from doing well on a single task, but her own experience with multitasking is contrary.
“I do best when I do more than one thing at once, unlike other people who probably can only do one thing at once,” Watts said.
Hill has in-class examples to demonstrate the issue of over-consumption of technology.
“A lot of times we are missing things from conversation–– like if a student is distracted in class and asks a question on something I already said,” Hill said.