Motivational Technology

I went into this debate with a pretty clear idea of what I anticipated each side to argue, but had completely discounted the crux of the against side’s argument: the social aspect of technology. I had expected more of the “video games are ruining our children” argument.

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Photo via Pennsylvania State

I had completely forgotten about something I find so ubiquitous: wearable tech. I am a pretty consistent user of a Fitbit for almost a year and a half and am consequently much more aware of my every day movement that I was previously. I find that I enjoy the competition against myself, day after day, week after week.

I have learned to be intrinsically motivated. Children and teenagers must also learn to be intrinsically motivated through trial and error (for an interesting TED talk on the power of intrinsic motivation: the famous “marshmallow experiment”). Wearable technology, while it does provide some instant feedback, is about long-term goals. Self-motivation is a learned skill that can be honed through the use of these tools, though there is a fine line between a tool and a toy.

The disagree side of the debate extensively discussed the impact of social media and bullying on children’s mental health. This is a topic that much time and expertise is spent on and it will only increase. As I mentioned last week, apps such as Snapchat, encourage a sense of freedom and of privacy in its users because apparently their photos will be deleted. Which is true to a point: “and we may also retain certain information in backup for a limited period of time or as required by law.” Furthermore, Dr Google has detrimental effects on people’s mental health. Anecdotally, a homeroom student of mine convinced himself that he had diabetes because he had used WebMD’s Symptom Checker  and it told him his stomach ache was something much more sinister. This type of anxiety, supported by technology, has impacts that stretch beyond personal mental health: people who are truly worried and concerned will attend medical clinics and emergency rooms unnecessarily.

In conclusion, I see how beneficial technology can be, but as with everything, it must be used cautiously and judiciously. Strong, personal parameters need to be learned and established in order to guard against the harmful effects a continuous attachment to technology that doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. Children should be taught, explicitly, how to find balance for themselves. Balance includes the appreciation of nature, as the agree side’s video so aptly put. And, luckily, we have technology to help us appreciate nature.