ERIKA DITZMAN | OPINION COLUMNIST
More than 54 percent of United States teens ranging from 13 to 17 years of age admit to browsing social media on multiple occasions throughout the day. Twenty-four percent claim to sit on the technological interface almost constantly. This has become the sheer reality of this generation, becoming societal norm as advances in technology consume every sector of our lives. In fact, those 14 to 18 years of age spend an average of 7.5 hours attached to cellular devices, computers and/or televisions.
Not only the result of faulty parenting, as iPads and smartphones are often utilized to keep rowdy children occupied, the education system itself encourages unhealthy doses of screen time. An anonymous St. Norbert College freshman validated this, reporting the assignation of iPads to every student during her senior year of high school, requiring most notes and assignments to be submitted electronically. This new teaching style has spread to all levels of education, turning child scribblings with pen upon paper, to sliding a single finger across a glass screen, ultimately depriving them of real world experience while also encouraging a sedentary lifestyle. Children who spend three hours per day watching television with little to no movement are predicted to have 17 to 44 percent greater chance of obesity, causing a higher body fat percentage and concurrent heart problems, high blood pressure and/or diabetes as they age. At a young age, the effects of such influences are monumental, leading to a variety of social implications such as social anxiety, depression, isolation and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). These repercussions are often lifelong, inhibiting successful human interaction that is necessary for a prosperous and healthy lifestyle come adulthood.
Technology was originally constructed to fulfill tasks more efficiently, increasing productivity in a variety of different sectors. Now, mobile devices as a primary source are constant reminders of required work, merging social and occupational areas of livelihood. As a result, Americans work more hours per year than any other country in the world. On the other hand, these can also serve as a distraction in essential, yet dull, situations that require our undivided attention. With reference to phones in a college classroom environment, sneaking a few text messages or playing Doodle Jump during lecture can cause a student to miss important information being relayed by the professor. Failure of a course is a waste of money and significant damage to overall college grade point average, which may in turn disrupt potential career plans.
Through the winding pathways of St. Norbert College’s campus, a number of these effects are apparent. By my observation as a friendly and outgoing freshman, it is difficult to pinpoint students who do not avert their eyes from me: a clear example of social isolation. More commonly than not, those who refuse eye contact turn to their cellular devices as a distraction, appearing “busy” at such an opportune time. St. Norbert prides itself on communio, a term uniting the campus community. Technology builds an emotional barrier, preventing fulfillment of this ideal upon which St. Norbert College was entirely constructed. If we as students are not fulfilling this need, can we really call ourselves a part of this community? I think not. Put down the cell phones and close up the laptops. There’s a whole world out there.