Bri Walker

Professor Elisha Emerson

English 110 C

13 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 special; 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 page in swiping, tapping and clenching motions, her furrowed brow and disgruntled babbling indicating her dissatisfaction with the outcome of her efforts. The video then transitions to the same toddler performing the same exact motions on an Ipad, except this time 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 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 this toddler’s assumption becomes a reality in the near future. What is surprising, however, is society’s tendency to focus on the benefits of an increasingly technologically based world while ignoring the negative implications that technology and all of its characteristics could have on the development of young minds. 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 wellbeing, physical health and professional development of younger generations.

     [TOPIC]An overabundance of information and therefore distraction causes young people to feel overwhelmed and often times inadequate. [RESTRICTION] With extensive technology at their fingertips, young people are expected to learn more, know more and accomplish more in a shorter period of time. This expectation begins in the classroom where much of the curriculum is now technology based. [ILLUSTRATION] In his article titled “In Defense of Distraction,”, Sam Anderson highlights the pressure school kids feel to utilize the supposed wonders of technology when he says that, “School kids spread their attention across 30 different programs at once and interact with each other mainly as sweatless avatars”(2). [ANALYSIS]Anderson highlights how the current education system treats technology as a magical tool that they believe will allow students to divide their attention in countless directions while still understanding the information when in fact students can’t possibly learn like this! Although technology makes certain aspects of learning richer and more efficient, exposing students to an excess of information only overwhelms them! Many try to divide their attention and keep up with the demands of technology related school work, but they aren’t actually learning anything.  [ILLUSTRATION]This often frustrates students, which King discusses in his Tedx Talk when he states, “Year 12 is basically about memorizing content to then regurgitate back onto exam papers. Sorry! Learning. But seriously, like how does this serve us?”(2). [ANALYSIS] King highlights that instead of learning, students are just memorizing because their attention is being split in so many different directions that they can’t actually focus to really learn something. Therefore, if a student is not great at memorizing content or dividing their attention to multitask, it is likely they could fail in school and feel as though their inability to keep up with the expectations that a tech based society is setting makes them inadequate. If they could instead focus on a few core subjects, students would not have to  split their attention as many ways to try to absorb so much information.

     When technology causes young people to feel overwhelmed and inadequate their mental well being is likely to decline over time. In “Attention Deficit: The Brain Syndrome of Our Era”, a chapter from his book The New Brain, Richard Restak highlights the negative psychological effects that overwhelming technology can have on people. He explains that because our technological society demands that people split their attention to get more things done, many people try to cope with this overwhelming pressure by multitasking. This multitasking, Restak says, can cause these people to develop characteristics consistent with ADD/ADHD that they may carry with them into adulthood. 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 young people in society who are using it most to multitask and divide their attention which causes many of them to develop ADD/ADHD that they may carry with them into adulthood. The development of ADD/ADHD causes the sense of inadequacy which leads to sadder people which is negative.

     Young people are harming their bodies and compromising their physical health to keep up with the demands of a digitally distracting world. Anderson says,  “Although neuroenhancers are currently illegal to use without prescription, they’re popular among college students…and among a wide spectrum of other professional focusers: journalists on deadline, doctors performing high-stake surgeries, competitors in poker tournaments, researchers suffering through the grind of grant writing”(8).  If you need a prescription to use neuroenhancers, probably a reason why. They are dangerous if used incorrectly! However, these people listed above still use them because the digital advancements our world has made is constantly distracting them from the work they need to do. In order to focus, they go to such extremes as taking potentially harmful drugs like adderall and ritalin. Feel enough pressure from society that they are willing to hurt themselves physically to keep up with the pace. This is negative.

     With all of the distractions that modern technology now provides, young people are performing inefficiently and therefore are not progressing as far as they should be within their professional fields. According to Anderson, “American office workers don’t stick with any single task for more than a few minutes at a time; if left uninterrupted, they will most likely interrupt themselves. Since every interruption costs around 25 minutes of productivity, we spend nearly a third of our day recovering from them”(5). These office workers are hardly getting anything accomplished.  Distractions like computers and cellphones are taking their minds away from the tasks/responsibilities they need to fulfill. Imagine all they could get done if the digital distractions were not there. Also, with all of these advancements in tech supposedly making everything “quicker” and “easier” to do, employers are expecting their employees to use tech to finish more tasks in a shorter time period. Technology is giving workers MORE tasks to accomplish while also distracting them from accomplishing those tasks. Difficult to make any progress professionally which is negative.  Restak says, “In fact, doing more than one thing at once or switching back and forth from one task to another involves time-consuming alterations in brain processing that reduces our effectiveness at accomplishing either one” (381).  Workplaces giving workers so much to do thinking that they can handle it because of technology advancements. Actually forces them to try to multitask to get it all done = inefficient! Goal of companies is efficiency because efficiency equals money. If you’re having workers multitask to meet demands they will be less inefficient and more likely to produce “half assed” results from being overwhelmed = less progression in professional fields = negative!

     With people today experiencing negative effects in so many aspects of their life with the technology we have now, what will future generations have to deal with when technology has developed even further? Will everyone be taking ritalin/adderall just to survive? If you cannot multitask/aren’t good at it, will you be able to get a job or make a living? Will suicide rates increase as people just don’t want to/won’t be able to deal with everything they are expected to know/understand/accomplish is such a short period of time? Will society see the negative trend that digital distraction is imposing and let their foot off the gas? Or will society continue to prioritize money/economy over the health and safety of its people?  “I don’t know for sure what our world will look like in 20 years, but what I can guarantee you is that it won’t look anything like it does today.” (King).


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