Today, 82% of kids are online by the seventh grade (Wallis, 2006). They are the generation of gadget lovers and multitaskers. Though, it turns out that all those devices that were designed to keep us productive and happy often do quite the opposite. In her essay “The Multitasking Generation”, Claudia Wallis makes several claims about the effects of technology on young people, and the ones that interested me are: multitasking is decreasing working efficiency, our brains cannot handle it properly, and our gadgets interrupt the communication among family or friends.
The big concern with the ever-growing Internet access in the classrooms is the compulsion of students to multitask. The Internet expansion on the mobile devices makes the problem even bigger, as multitasking gets out of hand. Students all over the country prefer to sort their e-mail during lectures and many professors find it hard to get their attention back. Sherry Turkle, Professor of the social studies of science and technology at MIT, says:
I tell them it is not the place for e-mail, it is not the place to do online searches and it is not a place to set up IRC channels in which to comment on the class. It is not going to help if there are parallel discussions about how boring it is. You have got to get people participate in the world as it is. (Wallis, 2006)
While using the Internet has its benefits, the lack of students’ attention often leads to blocking Internet access during lectures. As Aaron Brower, Professor at University of Wisconsin, puts it, it is important for his students “not to treat him like TV”. Internet might have changed students’ works for the better in some ways, though, according to different professors at top universities, students now cannot write clear, focused narratives that follow a line of argument (Wallis, 2006).
The working efficiency is decreasing because our brains cannot handle multitasking properly. It is a well-known fact that a brain cannot fully focus when we are multitasking, therefore, it takes us longer to complete tasks and we are prone to error. In 2009, a group of Stanford researchers put 100 students through a series of tests, and found that heavy multitaskers pay a big mental price. "They're suckers for irrelevancy," said communication Professor Clifford Nass, "everything distracts them." It has been assumed for some time now that our brain just cannot process more than one string of information at a time (Gorlick, 2009). Of course, our brains are changing and due to technology boom we absorb information differently. We sift more and filter more, and in some ways these changes benefit our brains (Woods, 2006). But this doesn’t change the fact that we are bad multitaskers.
However, the main issue many have with gadgets and the Internet is how they interrupt the communication among family and friends. Nowadays, young people spend a lot of time online, chatting with their friends, playing games, socializing in the way Facebook or Google Plus let you socialize. A lot of my friends do that too. Though, as a result of that, they spend less time with their families, and that doesn’t help to bridge the generation gap, which is probably the largest since 1960s. Besides, some of them become shy in everyday life; they find it hard to talk to people and sometimes even try to avoid it completely. As good as they can be, online games often fail to bring the sense of comradery among us that their offline counterparts are famous for. There is nothing wrong with spending time on the Internet, though, we need to spend more time off it.
To conclude, there are a few side effects of living in the technology world; some of them are negative, some of them are beneficial. And while we are welcome to enjoy electronic devices that make our life easier and happier, we must never forget that they can do harm. Lack of attention and lack of communication among family and friends are the prime examples of the dark side of technology.