When technology goes too far

Mal Hartigan

It’s no secret that younger generations have integrated technology into their daily lives.

As technology advances, we can kick back and revel in laziness while a machine performs our tasks.

Or, for an (unfortunate) growing percentage of Americans, we sit back and weep about how our jobs have been outsourced or depleted because of technology.

Many young children are now fiddling around with a laptop computer before they can even grasp the concept of what it is.

Engaging and educational games for toddlers are now condensed onto CDs, meaning all a parent must do to keep a child occupied is pop the CD into the disc drive, pull up the program, and be devoid of the responsibility of raising the child.

I’ve heard since I was a kid that I just didn’t have respect for my elders.

I’m sure many have had a family member scold them with the exact same phrase; it seems rather commonplace when we’re young.

My family was quick to teach me to behave properly and show respect, especially to those who deserve it.

Most parents of my generation stressed the importance of this to their children as well, so most people that I meet are fairly well-rounded.

When I was in second grade, I remember teachers started taking us to computer labs to play educational games instead of interacting in the classroom with the rest of the students.

This is when educational software began to rapidly grow. Remember the first Mac desktop? It was huge, white and innovative for its time.

My elementary school had an entire lab full of them, and I was enthralled by Millie’s Math House for hours.

My generation was the first to grow up with this technology. Since it was introduced at a younger age, we learned how to operate each technological device with ease, and it overran our daily lives.

When I was in eighth grade, most students had a cell phone and would text in class or call each other each night. My parents didn’t allow me to get a cell phone until I finished the eighth grade. In contrast, my older sister wasn’t allowed to have one until partway through her freshman year of high school.

I work at the Saint Joseph School District in my hometown over the summer fixing laptops. This summer, I was sitting in a classroom where a summer school class was taking place. As I was taking a Macbook apart with a screwdriver, I overheard the teacher telling the class they were going to make sandwiches and distribute them to the homeless that week.

I found the idea charming.

Shortly after her announcement, a seventh-grade boy piped up and said, “F*** the homeless. All of the homeless are f***ing bums. They don’t deserve sandwiches.”

I was appalled. I wanted to turn around and backhand the boy for speaking to his teacher that way and for slandering people less fortunate than him.

But as an arbitrary worker, I couldn’t say anything to interfere with the class. It wasn’t my place to do so. But the amount of disrespect I witnessed this summer while working in the secondary schools was startling.

Another week later, I was fixing Macbooks with broken hard drives at an elementary school, when I glanced over and saw a sixth grader with an iPhone 4. I don’t even have an iPhone 4. Why in the hell would a sixth grader need a phone that nice?

A kid that young can’t even drive, so if not to inform his parents of his whereabouts, I struggled to find the reason why his parents would spend their money on such a nice phone.

I don’t care if his parents have a lot of money. That isn’t the point.

The point is that the more I consider it, I see a correlation between the amount of disrespect a child exhibits and the early integration of technology.

If implemented too early, it inhibits the way a child interacts with the world. Technology can completely isolate us.

How often do you hear about one of your friends receiving a break-up through a text message? What the hell is that? Sincerity has been depleted from our daily conversations if the convenience of technology replaces face-to-face communication.

When I broke up with my last girlfriend, I made sure to do so in person. It would be insulting to do it over a text message.

If someone meant that much to me, she at least deserved the sincerity of a face-to-face conversation and reconciliation.

There’s a possibility that I’m wrong. I feel that respecting those around you is absolutely pertinent in order to excel in life.

No employer will be interested in someone who communicates poorly and can’t respect the administration.

Technology can’t be entirely to blame. Parenting is another factor. Individual choice also plays a role.

I have faith that our generation will raise its children efficiently and give them every opportunity to succeed, but it would be well-advised to consider the social isolation that can occur with sophisticated technology.

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