The Technology Impact on Children: What is the Opportunity Cost?

Growing up in the small town of North Scituate, Rhode Island, my father coached the town’s high school varsity basketball team. At the end of each school day, he would pick me up from school and bring me to each practice. As I sat and watched from the bleachers, I was actively engaged and attentive to the teamwork, work ethic, and small lessons and gestures made. By paying attention to a group of high school athletes at my age, I learned valuable lessons such as accountability, respect, and sacrificing one’s time and energy for a greater good. It was authenticity in the sense of being truly connected to what is present in your life and what is in front of you at a specific moment in time, rather than distracted by a technological device and interconnected digital network. When I joggle my memory of my childhood, my mind resorts to memories prior to my introduction to technology.

Currently, I am a collegiate student-athlete studying business administration & accounting at a private liberal arts school in Vermont. My life has revolved around technology, whether it be completing my classes remotely due to COVID-19, networking and connecting with successful alumni and friends around the world by tapping a screen, developing technological skills to improve my skillset as a professional, and utilizing social media to keep updated with the world’s latest news and trends. As I reflect on my childhood, technology was developing, but had not become a part of everyday life. I am appreciative of not having a cell phone at a young age, as I would have missed out on valuable lessons and actions I otherwise may have missed. There have been pros and cons with technology in my life, and there is no clear answer whether having or not having these impressive technology advances is better than the other. As I think about its impact, I believe the most important question to ask is: what is the opportunity cost of children using technology, and how does one’s balance of technology usage impact their development?

The addiction of technology for kids could impair the ability to be truly engaged with the world, the environment, and other humans. Communication and the ability to form relationships is key, yet technology offers a different twist on these ideals. Face to face social interactions are essential to one’s social development and ability to build relationships. However, children are becoming more comfortable texting what is on their mind and how they feel, rather than communicating face to face. The inability and uncomfortably to have hard conversations and interacting on a deep level in person could have negative connotations to child development as technology advances progress society. Additionally, psychical activity is important for children’s health. Whether it be participating on a sports team or playing at the playground with friends, there are opportunities for valuable lessons and connections to be made. Yet, an unhealthy imbalance of technology usage may reduce the amount of time dedicated to physical activity opportunities. Children bring new and fresh perspectives and ideas to the world. Most are creative, thoughtful, and see the world through their own unique lens. Social media’s ability to change and deviate a young child’s perspective, thought process, and values is concerning. Additionally, social media increases the ability to affect children’s mental health. Perfect images and ideal lifestyles are digitally flaunted, causing many to experience a feeling of unworthiness. Depression, anxiety, and bullying levels are increasing amongst kids, and these issues must continue to be addressed and discussed.

On the contrary, technology has proven its positive impacts for kids, especially due to its capabilities during COVID-19. As schools were temporarily shut down and moved remote, technology aided the ability for children to continue their education and pursue learning opportunities. Whether it be remote or in person learning, the technology tools developed have improved and created new learning styles that will positively influence many individuals and communities. Educators can adapt their teaching models to incorporate new information, touch on different areas, and reinforce content through interactive features. As the future of many industries and careers are changing due to rising technologies, the ability for the generation of children today to be equipped and familiar with technology will allow for future opportunities and innovation. By being exposed and introduced to technology as children, the growth of individuals will cause the world to be impacted by new discoveries, new habits formed, and an interconnected world developing for years to come.

There are mixed opinions surrounding technology usage. Parents must consider the benefits and negative impacts of technology, determining how to balance integrating technology into their child’s life. As technology usage boundaries are debated by parents worldwide, the question I would pose to each family considering is – what is the opportunity cost?

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