There’s a lot of back and forth about the impact of technology on people, particularly adolescents. Children and young adults are constantly connected to screens, and Generation Z (those born in between the mid-90s and early 2000s) are the first group to have Internet their entire lives. Additionally, there’s an argument that states that those in Gen Z can’t be addicted to technology, because it’s all that they’ve known, not remembering a time without it.
So between the articles and arguments that social media, technology, and the amount of time people are “plugged in” are all damaging (items we’ve also covered here before), is it actually causing harm if it’s all they have known?
An intense study conducted by Oxford surveyed over a quarter of a million adolescents (350,000 to be exact!) to see how their screen time use and how often they were “plugged in” affected their mental wellbeing. Percentage wise, where average wellbeing is at 0, technology affects mood by -0.4%, which is as harmless as eating potatoes. The study describes other items that had a more negative impact on emotional wellbeing on the participants, such as wearing glasses and bullying.
Everyone’s experience with technology is different however, and the results of the study shouldn’t suggest that things like cyberbullying and losing productivity don’t exist. However, discussion based around the results talk about how the media (ironically, mostly doing so through screens like TV and on websites), exaggerate just how bad the effects of technology are on a whole, especially when it comes to adolescents. Other factors can affect how technology impacts our emotions and our wellbeing – for example, having a mental illness might increase that -0.4% because of how your brain processes information and events. This is also about technology as a whole, and specific items like social media and video games can likely have different results.
However, technology by itself has an overall small impact on adolescent wellbeing, and based off the study, it can feel significantly worse because of a combination of other factors. Your use with technology is up to you at the end of the day though, despite what studies and the media say.
Do you agree with the results? What do you think about news outlets and the media speaking for adolescents and how technology negatively affects them?