Does it really matter how much television people watch or how many video games they play? Are there any negative effects of technology on children? Is technology intrinsically bad or do adverse consequences come from device overuse? Should we all be chucking our Google devices and Apple watches? In this article, we’ll be arguing the impact of technology overuse can cause some unforeseen consequences which extend into our latter lives…but, we’ll also be arguing technology is just a tool and therefore it can be used for either good or evil.
Contents of this page:
- Addiction to devices
- Wasting time and technology overuse
- Alienation from others
- Laziness – how we prefer doing nothing instead of something and
- The Potential to Sin – How tempting technology is.
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When I was growing up, I knew a boy who came to our church meetings (because his parents made him come) who was very shy and wouldn’t say above half a dozen words. I knew he enjoyed talking to me but was much too shy to say much in face-to-face interaction.
However, when I logged onto MSN, we had very deep discussions, and he was very candid. Come Sunday morning again, and he was Mr. Shy. Looking back, I feel he was stunted by spending too much time on the computer. I have always thought this acted to stunt his social development.
Negative Effects of Technology: What Are They?
Steven Kryger listed some negative effects of technology in his article, 5 Dangers of Using Technology in the Christian Life, saying the impact of technology overuse can lead to:
- wasting time
- laziness and
- the potential to sin.
We’re going to talk about these five points a little more from a slightly different perspective, using a few statistics about screen time.
Addiction – One Impact of Technology Overuse
Have you noticed that television is as absorbing as a love affair? Maybe that’s because most of us are in love with our television sets. But, is the TV ‘relationship’ a healthy one, or are we addicted like a drug addict waiting for their next fix?
If someone were to challenge us to give up television for a month, most of us wouldn’t bother because we’d say, ‘No problem, I can do that – in fact, I’m so sure of it, I won’t even bother doing the challenge.’
These days it is particularly easy to deceive ourselves that we’re not addicted to technology as the negative effects of technology aren’t recognized by society or deemed an important worry. After all, if everyone is doing it, it mustn’t be a problem.
On the Marriage Relationship
Any marriage councillor will tell you that it is important to spend time with one’s marriage partner. A marriage goes through unnecessary turmoil when a spouse spends an extraordinary amount of time looking at a screen and spends little or no time looking at their spouse.
When a wife plays Candy Crush or a husband plays Age of Empires for long stretches of time, it seems even more hopeless as each spouse is not only spending a small amount of time with each other, they’re spending their time playing manifestly futile games designed to give the user a ‘hit’ of ‘gaming heroin’ to keep them coming back.
On the Child/Parent Relationship
Today we see fewer children spending one-on-one time with their parents outside. Instead, many are inside on a couch playing an X-box. That’s because technology is usually an individual endeavor (unless you refer to social gaming…and some people would debate that it’s truly social).
Instead of playing games with Mom or Dad, or learning how to help their parents around the house, children are learning to play video games which give them very few useful skills they can use when they’re older.
Another sad aspect of technology overuse comes when parents tell their children to get off their devices. Because this is happening so frequently, the parent-child relationship deteriorates as it increasingly involves parents reprimanding children for spending too much time on the computer or iPad.
- 85% of boys aged 12-13 years game for at least one hour per weekend day and
- 58% of girls aged 12-13 years game for at least one hour per weekend day [Institute of Family Studies]
Keeping your eyes on a computer screen game for hours on end is a good way to grow fat and lazy. At a time when children should be learning how to do things around the house or outside (putting up a tent, learning how to bake, learning how to make a chair), they’re learning the almost certainly useless skill of how to shoot a fake enemy with a fake gun.
Children should go out into nature and enjoy the real riches our environment offers instead of sitting in stationary positions hours on end getting fake prizes for fake conquests.
Potential to Sin
With pornography just a click away, many people find the potential to sin is increased when access is at the tips of our fingers.
Not only this but anonymity seems to make us ‘wild and free’. While we’re more measured in our face-to-face responses with our friends, we lose some of our inhibitions when we start commenting on Youtube videos we’re displeased with.
Anonymity makes us less likely to guard our tongues and censure our harsher thoughts. It’s much to easy to ‘tappity-tap’ on our keyboards and make a comment. The wisest man in the world applied this proverb to our tongues:
When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Proverbs 10:19
Technology games are often wired to make us feel a sense of achievement for doing ‘tasks’ that give no actual reward. An example is:
*Ding, ding* You have just earned 2000 gold coins. You now have enough to buy King Kong’s sword to Defeat the White Witch!*
High fives all around, right?
Wait a minute…how many hours did it take you to earn 2000 fake gold coins to buy a fake sword to defeat a fake witch? 10 hours??? And that was just for level 7.
If we counted all the time we spent playing video games and watching television episodes, how many hours could we account for? Furthermore, what useful projects could we accomplish with these spare hours?
When my husband and I decided to stop watching television, we managed to get our finances in order because we had so much spare time. My husband often says we would never have done it if we’d been watching television like we were before.
Paid Psychologists Aren’t thinking about the Negative Effects of Technology and the Impact of Overuse
Often video games are heavily researched by psychologists to make us keep coming back and wasting more time. Many psychologists are paid good money by social media and computer gaming companies to formulate plans to keep our eyes glued to the screen for as many hours as they can diddle us out of…and they do a stellar job!
- we spend the most amount of screen-time in front of a TV – even more on weekends
- 13-year-olds spend about 150 min in front of the TV and 60 min on the computer
- 60% of kids have 2+ televisions in their house
- 20% of 7-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom; 45% of 13-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom
My husband and I found escaping the tentacles of technology downright liberating. We found more marriage-time for each other, our child, and our life. After putting away the television and computer games, we felt free.
But, Technology is Just a Tool…
Perhaps the answer isn’t to flush our mobile phones down the toilet. It’s good to remember that technology is just a tool and like any tool, it can be used responsibly or irresponsibly.
Technology has many good functions. A technological background of some description is useful if we want to actively participate in most 21st century jobs.
The issue is, how responsible are we when we use it? Just like food isn’t inherently evil, if it’s used or eaten too much it can be detrimental. But, it can also have many useful functions (in the latter case, it keeps us alive!).
Three Books That Explain it All
If you want to inform yourself a little more about the negative effects of technology, I can only highly recommend reading Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.
Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), is a dystopian novel written in 1949 by George Orwell. It anticipates society in 1984 (about 35 years after the time the book was written) will be controlled by a big brother-like government. Big Brother watches everything everyone does and life is very oppressive. Dissidents are not tolerated. There is war constantly with advanced government surveillance and propaganda.
Brave New World is another dystopian novel pbulished in 1932 by Aldous Huxley. It is mostly set in the future where citizens are manufactured in test tubes and designed to fit into classes of people (like the Indian caste system). But, in this world, people are happy with their lot in life as they’ve been programmed to be content with their dismal situation. They’re sold a lie, but they’re happy to believe the lie and don’t want to accept the truth even when it’s clearly pointed out.
Amusing Ourselves to Death argues our society is more like the latter novel, Brave New World even though a lot of the time we think it might be like Nineteen Eighty-Four. It argues we’re the ones deluding ourselves in apathy – even if the powers that be control it also.
Since deciding not to watch television anymore, my husband and I haven’t looked back. We are far happier in our marriage, and my husband is now no longer tired for the whole evening as he’s gotten used to not relying on television for relaxation. We have longer chats about many things. As previously mentioned, we’ve been able to get our finances on track, which has taken a lot of time..time we probably would have spent watching television in the past.