How Schools Can Stem the Toxic Tide of Technology

3 min read

Education Trends: May 11, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Teenage anxiety levels spiked after smartphones started to saturate the adolescent market in 2012.

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Whistleblower Frances Haugen recently exposed how Facebook’s own research links its Instagram service with body dissatisfaction and suicidal thoughts among teenagers. In a chilling TED Talk, design thinker Tristan Harris revealed how Google, his former employer, lures users into staying on-screen far longer than is good for them.

Psychology professor Jean M. Twenge reported that teenage anxiety levels spiked after smartphones started to saturate the adolescent market in 2012.

During the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of 5-year-olds received government-mandated, on-screen instruction that well exceeded the one-hour limit that was recommended pre-pandemic by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Stemming the toxic tide of digital distraction, depression and addiction

What are schools, school systems, governments, and foundations doing to stem this toxic tide of digital distraction, depression and addiction?

The answer, sadly, is very little—or nothing at all.

In the United States, a Senate subcommittee recently grilled big-tech-company executives about the serious harm their products might do to children, but it’s unclear whether the protective legislation some legislators favour will ever see the light of day.

Even more alarming, perhaps, is that the people in charge of what our students should learn and how they should learn it are might make things worse.

For instance, early in the pandemic, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a major partnership with the Gates Foundation to “reimagine education” digitally. This led to the question of whether physical classes were needed at all when we have all this technology at hand.

During global policy discussions to brainstorm post-pandemic educational scenarios, we witnessed ed-tech entrepreneurs, government leaders, and philanthropy executives wax lyrical about a transformative future of digital, blended, and hybrid learning. COVID-19 seemed to be the disruptive educational force they’d all been waiting for, the force that would upend conventional schooling everywhere.

The answer is not to smash all the screens

If you are worried about the downside for students, here is an example of the notorious Luddites, a group of 19th-century English textile workers known for smashing the inventions that threatened their own jobs.

Contrary to the popular understanding, the Luddites were very skilled with technologies. They weren’t opposed to all of them. They destroyed only the machines that they believed were being misused to undermine good labour practices.

My own research reveals countless examples of thoughtful uses of digital learning technologies in interdisciplinary projects and informative assessments shared in real-time. During the pandemic, teachers have made enormous strides in developing their own and their kids’ digital competence so they can make use of such approaches. This is good.

So the answer is not to smash all the screens.

Instead, we need to embrace our inner Luddite: Retain the uses of technology that offer distinctive benefits, yet ruthlessly eradicate the uses that lead to toxic effects.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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