Today I facilitated a debate in my English class with my middle school students. The topic was taken from the Choice magazine article (March 2018 issue) entitled, "Does Devices Make Us Lonely?" Honestly, I didn't know what to expect from my young scholars because a big percentage of them carry their cell phones with them everywhere, so naturally, I figured that they'd be a bit defensive. To my surprise, they were very open-minded and mature regarding this issue. According to this Choice magazine article, the majority of teens spend more than nine hours per day staring at their screens. My students agreed with this data and admitted that their 'technology time" was a lot like eating potato chips or their favorite snack; once they started, it was difficult to disengage.
Another statistic from the March 2018 Choice magazine article is that, "Being on social media for two hours or more a day makes you two times as likely to feel socially isolated." I, too, spend more time on technology that I should, so I had to be transparent in order to bring authenticity to our classroom discussion. I admitted to my students how I am guilty of sacrificing face to face quality time in place of virtual connections. It's also hard for me not to compare my life with my social media counterparts. Although I know that majority of people post only their 'best moments,' including myself, it's still sometimes tough not to get bombarded with the false impressions of perfection. My students appreciated my honesty and opened up even more about their insecurities. 75% of my students felt that the use of technology made them feel more lonely than before. Students said that the more they connected virtually, the less face-time they gave family members in their own home. After all, junior high students are willing to give up eating and sleeping for device time. I should know, I have a 7th grade son who does this very exact thing. The 25% of students who disagreed with social media isolation were either 'introverts' or 'only children.' The 'shy' and 'loner' adolescents felt less lonely connecting online because they didn't do a lot of socializing at school or other events, so engaging virtually was their main way of connecting with their peers. These introverts embraced their devices with no second-thoughts because technology strengthened their relationship with friends allowing them the ability to pick and choose only the best 'online' buddies. These students also believed that they were more confident behind the screen opposed to in person.
After debates in all 6 of my core classes, I've come to the conclusion that my 7th graders are smarter than their smartphones. This generation of students not only have to balance school work and extracurricular activities, but they also have to take care of 'normal' middle school stuff, like peer pressure, drama, bullying, and balancing cyber-time. In my opinion, my students are much smarter than my generation when we were growing up. For example, our lives were more simple. No iSfuff and information stored in the 'cloud.' We could make mistakes without the 'world wide web' knowing about it. We could just be 'real' kids, not 'cyber' or 'virtual' kids. Playing outside together with NO interruptions from notifications was the norm. No 'cyber bullying,' or pressure to have constant virtual-approval with 'followers' and 'likes.'
Yes, I agree, technology has greatly improved our lives. It is also necessary for our nation's advancement, but does technology make us lonely? I guess it all depends on who you are and how you receive it. Based on my observation from today's classroom debate, if you're a strong and confident person, technology probably does not make you lonely. The same goes for if you're an introvert or an only child, in this case, being online may be the antidote to loneliness. I say, "Go ahead and share your time with loved ones online." It's fun, you get to play 'catch-up,' and you can learn something new. Just remember to take technology-breaks every once in a while.