Several thousand years ago, we did not have much technology. If I were alive back then, at 30 years old I would have had a long and fulfilling life. However, I live in Canada in the year 2016, and I’m hoping that my life is only about a third done! 72 is the New 30: Modern-Day Technology Has Prolonged Life Expectancy is the proof that our technological developments are the reason for this bounty of life.
This past Tuesday, we had a class debate regarding whether technology is to blame for many of our current health problems. My stance is that technology as a whole has increased the quantity and quality of life, and while there are misuses, the fault lies not with the technology, but with other factors.
I threw this comment into the chat during class but it quickly disappeared as the chat was hoppin’ at that time and so I’m not sure how many caught it. This debate topic made me see a connection between something I tell students about science. Science is not inherently good or bad. It is knowledge. The use of that knowledge can be put towards good or ill, but that is not the fault of the science. Overall, science has improved the quality of life for billions of people. We have medicines, we have instant communication, we have increased food yields. These are good things! For every thousand good things there is a Chernobyl or a Bhopal. The negative uses seem to always overshadow all of the good things. How many people are alive and well due to MRI machines, incubators, defibrillators, pacemakers, and the list can go on and on? Technology promises to continue to improve our health. Check out this Ted Talk regarding futuristic medicine; body parts on a chip!
And this Ted Talk shows how we can use cell phone apps and technology to increase response time to emergencies!
The positives are everywhere!! But the technology is not inherently good or bad, it’s all about how it is used. We see examples of technology being used in ways that clearly have a negative affect on health. Kids dug in playing video games for hours and hours at a time and the physical consequences of not moving for hours. Sneaky Ways Technology Is Messing With Your Body And Mind highlights many of the physical AND mental downsides of inadvisable technological use. One of the most obvious issues with the increased technology use by kids (and non kids) is the sedentary lifestyle it creates which leads to the obesity epidemic we are currently experiencing. Obesity in Children and Technology also identifies that the increased technology usage leads to increased snacking (and coupled with the lack of movement, weight gain) and sleep issues which obviously have a huge impact on our health.
We do not need to hate on the technology for these issues! I have a Playstation, a t.v., and a cell phone, and while there are times where I feel that one of these devices may be affecting my health negatively, there are also times that I know they are affecting my health positively and being able to identify that I am able to make healthy choices regarding their use. For example, I may have a few days that are incredibly busy and challenging, and to give my mind a break, I am able to go play a video game for an hour and I find it to be such an enjoyable experience I feel better off mentally. If I begin to play too long and I feel my body stiffening up, or my eyes getting sore, I have the discipline to turn off the device and move on to something else.
For some people, the discipline required to turn off their game console or put down their phone is akin to climbing Mt. Everest. Where does this, I’ll use the term addiction, come from? I feel that a big issue is that in our modern developed world, we are always on the go. Both parents are working hard to make ends meet, get kids picked up and dropped off, and are just busy adulting in general. Supper’s gotta get made, but kids need to be entertained, so how do we do both? Put on the t.v., give them an ipad, or whatever other way we can use technology to entertain. I get it, there’s so much to do, we do it to survive and technology is a good go-to because it is so entertaining! I think we run into a problem though when that’s our go-to strategy too often, or when we start providing this at such a young age. If kids grow up having technology as their (almost) only source of entertainment, how would we expect them to know how to entertain themselves without it?? Kyle echoes these sentiments in ‘Technology has replaced Play and is ruining our Health’ and his hope is to “motivate students of all ages to put their phones down and get back to a lifestyle full of healthy exercise”. Like an addiction, once you’re hooked, it’s hard to stop and so I hope we can help these students find balance in their lives, but also help the younger students find this balance before becoming addicted.
So let’s not blame technology for making us unhealthy. Technology has increased the health of our societies in ways that nothing else has even come close! The few examples of technology that are being misused and impacting our health negatively should not smear all technology as destroyers of good health. The best solution to a problem is not to just address the symptoms, but to solve the root of the problem. We need to show kids that the world has a lot to offer besides Minecraft and Facebook. It’s like going to the buffet and only eating perogies because that’s the only food there you’ve had before and you know you love them. Try something else and you may find that you enjoy other things just as much, and then you can balance all that is offered.
Live long and prosper.