Bri Walker

Professor Elisha Emerson

English 110 C

27 October 2017


Technology Overload:

The Harmful Effects of Digital Distraction on Young Minds


     In October of 2011, a video clip depicting a one year old toddler playing with a magazine went viral. At first glance, the content of the video seems to demonstrate nothing out of the ordinary; like nearly all babies and toddlers, the young girl merely appears to be investigating the world around her through sensory experiences like prodding a magazine. Upon closer inspection, however, the little girl can be seen gliding her chubby fingers across the magazine pages in swiping, tapping and clenching motions, her furrowed brow and disgruntled babbling indicating her obvious dissatisfaction with the outcome of her efforts. The video then transitions to the same toddler performing identical motions on an iPad. This time, though, the toddler is pleased. With each touch she applies to the device, the young girl is able to make the screen of the Ipad shift, scroll, and zoom: the same results, the viewer realizes, she was expecting when interacting with the magazine.

     Only after being made aware that the one-year-old has already been exposed to technology does the viewer understand the potentially concerning point of the video; The toddler thinks that all of the objects she interacts with are digital or technological in some nature. With society’s increasing integration of technology into everyday life, it would not be surprising if the toddler’s assumption becomes a reality in the near future. What is surprising, however, is society’s inclination to promote the benefits of a technologically based world while ignoring the negative implications that technology and and all of its characteristics could have on the development of young minds. Within their respective works, Richard Restak, Sam Anderson and Thomas King express their opinions on the nature of the relationship that exists between young minds and an increasingly technological world. In my opinion, today’s digitally distracting world is doing far more harm than good to young minds, as the relentless bombardment of information associated with technological advancements is negatively affecting the mental well being of younger generations.

     The integration of technology into school systems is increasing the amount of demands placed on young minds, leading these students to feel overwhelmed.With extensive technology acting as a medium for access to ample information, young people today are expected to accomplish more in shorter periods of time. This expectation begins in the classroom where much of the curriculum is now technology based. Throughout his article titled, “In Defense of Distraction,” Sam Anderson undoubtedly advocates for the benefits of digital distraction; however, he does acknowledge the immense stress that a constant influx of technological information puts on young minds when he says, “Schoolkids [now] spread their attention across 30 different programs at once and interact with each other mainly as sweatless avatars”(2). Anderson highlights that the overbearing presence of technology in schools is causing young people to spread themselves thin amongst an overwhelming amount of subject matter. These students are expected to use technology to absorb an unrealistic surplus of information and, in a vain attempt to do so, they often must resort to multitasking. Rather than leading them towards academic success, however, multitasking instead overwhelms students and compromises their education.

     Although technology based school work requires students to multitask, it is impossible for young minds to actually learn when their attention is divided in this manner. This paradox prevents students from succeeding in the classroom and, as a result, leads young minds to feel inadequate. In his Tedx Talk titled, “Adults, we need to have the talk,” Thomas King, a nineteen year old entrepreneur and social advocate, discusses the ways in which our current education system is failing young minds today. As a young mind himself, King points to his own recent experiences in modern classrooms as evidence of the education system’s faults, saying that, “Year 12 is basically about memorizing content to then regurgitate back onto exam papers. Sorry! Learning. But seriously, like how does this serve us”(00:05:06 – 00:05:19)? King’s sarcasm rightly points out that instead of encouraging students to truly learn and understand concepts, schools force young minds to multitask and memorize in order to succeed in the classroom. Why must these students multitask and memorize in order to succeed? Because the increasing presence of modern technology within schools is so overwhelming that it does not grant students the necessary time to actually learn. With technology dividing students’ attention in so many different directions, young minds cannot focus their attention on one subject area long enough to truly reach the point of comprehension. Therefore, the only other methods that these students are left with to succeed are multitasking and memorization. Because nearly all young minds do not demonstrate exceptionality in multitasking, it is likely they will fail by school standards today. This failure to keep up with technology-based school work leads young people to feel inadequate.

     When technology causes young people to feel overwhelmed and inadequate, their mental well being is likely to decline over time. Richard Restak, author of “Attention Deficit: The Brain Syndrome of Our Era,” a chapter from his book The New Brain, discusses the negative psychological effects that overwhelming technology can have on young minds. He explains that because our technological society demands that young minds split their attention to get more things done, many of these young minds try to cope with this overwhelming pressure by multitasking. This multitasking, Restak says, is not only inefficient but can also cause these young minds to develop characteristics consistent with ADD or ADHD. Although many people associate these disorders solely with children, Restak warns that it is possible that these disorders can be carried into adulthood as well. According to data that Restak gathered from psychiatrists Edward Hallowell and John Ratey, Adult ADD can present itself as, “ A sense of underachievement, of not meeting one’s goals…Low self esteem and Emotional lability:sudden and sometimes dramatic mood shifts”(376). Essentially, technology is forcing the young minds of society, those who interact with it the most, to multitask and divide their attention. This multitasking causes many of these young minds to develop ADD or ADHD that they may carry with them into adulthood. The development of ADD or ADHD causes these young people to feel inadequate which, in turn, negatively affects their overall emotional well being.

     Yet many proponents of technology may challenge my view and instead argue that having access to an abundance of digital technology actually enhances the emotional well being of younger generations. These adversaries would likely argue that social extensions of digital technology, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, provide young minds with avenues for self expression, connection, and creativity that are necessary for emotional well being. While it is true that social media can provide platforms for positive self expression, connection and creativity, it does not necessarily follow that young minds are actually using these online platforms for these purposes. Thomas King observes that his peers view social media not as a beneficial tool for self expression but rather as a tool to enhance their self image and popularity. In his Tedx Talk, King notes that many young people that he knows, “are trying to find purpose in gaining 10,000 Instagram followers”(00:08:29 – 00:08:35). Here, Kking highlights that young people today are measuring their self worth based on trivial, social media statistics such as how many virtual friends they have. By engaging with technology in this manner, as many young people do, young minds will inevitably find themselves feeling inadequate when their selfie doesn’t receive a certain number of likes or when their crush doesn’t follow them back on twitter. As a young person myself, I can attest to this feeling of inadequacy as well as the feeling of “FOMO” ( the fear of missing out) that I often experience when interacting with social media.  For example, I often find myself feeling upset when I watch someone’s Snapchat story of a party that I haven’t been invited to. If I did not have such easy, frequent access to social media, I could avoid this disappointment altogether. Therefore, more often than not, interaction with social aspects of digital technology do more harm than good to the psychological well being of young adults.

     In conclusion, today’s digitally distracting world is psychologically distressing young minds. Not only does the invasive nature of technology and all of its characteristics overwhelm young people, it also causes them to frequently feel other negative emotions such as inadequacy and disappointment. Although the emotional well being of today’s young minds is certainly of concern, what is potentially more concerning is the emotional well being of future generations of young minds. Since advancements in technology show no signs of slowing, is it possible that future generations of young minds will be so heavily bombarded with technology that they will not be able to function emotionally? Will suicide rates increase among these young minds as the expectations and demands of technology simply become too much for them to handle? Will the little girl who thought a magazine was an iPad grow up so subjected to technology that she will live her entire life digitally? Will we as a society lose all in person contact to technological communication? These hypotheticals are important to consider as they are legitimate possibilities that could negatively alter the structure of society.



 Works Cited

Anderson, Sam. “In Defense of Distraction.” New York Magazine, 17 May 2009, Accessed 3 Oct. 2017.

King, Thomas. “Adults, we need to have the talk.” Youtube. TEDx Melbourne, Nov 2015. Web.          September 2017.

Restak, Richard. “Attention Deficit: The Brain Syndrome of Our Era.” Emerging: Contemporary Readings for Writers, edited by Barclay Barrios. 3rd ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016, pp. 372-385.


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