Technology is making our students unhealthy…Or is it?

Within the 21st century, Technology has become an integral part of our daily lives. Not only do we use technology within the work force but we also use it to perform tasks such as reading the news, paying bills and keeping in touch with our family and friends. However, with all of the technology available today, it comes as no surprise that children are subject to it as well. Many teachers would agree that our students have become too reliant upon technology and show great difficulty disconnecting from it. Personally, I feel that moderation is key as well as modeling the proper usage of technology for our students. On Tuesday evening (May 24th, 2016), Heather, Andres, and my-self debated against the Agree team, relying on the research we examined to defend technology and its contribution towards creating unhealthy lifestyles. Through collaboration, we each agreed that students are not becoming unhealthy because of technology and the internet alone. It is dependent upon a lifestyle which includes factors such as nutrition, dietary habits, genetics and most importantly, parenting habits. Although technology plays a part, it is not the only factor we should be looking at. However, once the debate was over, I was overwhelmed by the information brought forward by both teams. Despite this difficult topic, I must say that Heather, Andres, and I gave it a solid shot!

The Agree team brought forth many valuable points. Within the article “Sneaky Ways Technology is Messing with Your Body and Mind”, it describes the physical and mental effects that technology has on the body. I found this article to be very informative as I was unaware that too much time dedicated to staring at your cell phone or sitting in front of your computer can lead to neck and back complications. Moreover, “One 2011 study found that men who were exposed to electromagnetic radiation from laptop WIFI for four hours had sperm with DNA damage and decreased motility” (p. 2). As teachers, we often hear about the many ways children spend their time using technology outside of school. From playing video games to using social media, our students seem to be spending numerous hours on technology. Within the article “Obesity in Children and Technology”, it explains how the average child spends up to seven hours on technology. This includes watching TV, browsing the internet and playing video games. This intense exposure to technology can create unhealthy habits, consisting of obesity caused from increased snacking and lack of sleep. The Agree team also discussed the negative impacts that technology has on the social and mental well-being of students. Student’s communication skills are declining as they engage in less conversations due to being unable to disconnect from their technological devices. Cyber-bullying was another concern brought up during the debate. Students who are being bullied online are at risk of developing depression, anxiety, aggression, and suicidal thoughts.

In our debate, Heather, Andres and I focused specifically on the 4 ways Technology can contribute to a healthy lifestyle: Physical Health, Social Health, Emotional Health and Intellectual Health. A side from the information shared within our introductory video, we explained how a healthy balance of technology with physical fitness is possible, as technology cannot take the place of any sport yet provide motivation to be active. The internet provides children with the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of sports outside of schools and offers fitness groups that people may join, especially for those who do not prefer to exercise publicly. Moreover, there are devices (such as the Wii, Xbox Kinect and Fitbit) that offer active game participation that are geared towards balance improvement, aerobics, and also allow you to track your progress to see how you are improving. Within the article “Determining the Effects of Technology on Children”, it shares a study done by MedicineNet which states “Heavier children seemed to enjoy exergaming much more than exercising the traditional way” (p. 14). As for the Social and Emotional Health Aspect, Heather shared a link to an article which proved to be very informative but may also be used as an effective teaching tool within the classroom. The article includes a variety of resources directly related to the positive and healthy ways society can prevent as well as raise awareness about bullying. In the article “Researchers: Forget Internet Abstinence; Teens Need Some Online Risks” (found by Andres), it explains how students, specifically teenagers, should be aware of the many online risks that do exist and learn from these experiences rather than avoid them. By doing this, students will learn productive strategies for addressing the risks that are present while using technology.

Although it is easy to blame technology for contributing towards an unhealthy lifestyle, we must be open to the fact that technology (if used appropriately and in moderation) can be a positive tool. At school, teachers are able to monitor specific tasks being performed when using technology as well as the amount of time students are spending on technology. However, after 4:00 pm, the time our students spend on technology (such as playing video games or on social media) becomes out of our control. This is controlled by our student’s parents/guardians. Parents can contribute to healthy technology habits by making a habit of turning the TV off when eating supper, eliminating computer, tablet, and video game use after a certain amount of time each day and lastly, signing up their children for recreational sports in order to break away from media devices and to help their children understand it is important to take a step back from technology. But most importantly, both teachers and parents need to educate their children about being responsible while using technology because whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay.

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