Overuse of technology is a common topic of dispute between teens and parents. Four students from Beijing BISS International School weigh in on how much screen time is too much and how they understand technology addiction.
What are the digital devices you use the most on a day-to-day basis?
Zekre: My MacBook and iPhone 5c. We use our computers at school and probably spend eight hours a day or more on them, including time [at school]and at home.
Ana: My MacBook. I use it at school and after school for homework and checking social media. After that, I spend the most time on my phone – a Motorola.
Shaptarshi: I actually don’t have a phone. I used to, but I don’t like them much. Next would be my gaming computer – an Asus.
Xavier: I use my MacBook the whole day at school and for gaming at home. Second is my iPhone 5s.
Studies show that teens are particularly prone to technology addiction. Why?
Shaptarshi: Often, the school curriculum is based on technology and we are very prone because we’re always exposed to it.
Zekre: It’s because we start using it a young age and it’s readily available. Most teens have an urge to use it because everyone else is doing it.
How would you define technology addiction? At what point does it become a problem?
Ana: A technology addict is someone who doesn’t know their limits.
Zekre: But someone overusing technology might not understand that it’s excessive.
Shaptarshi: I don’t know if there’s even such a thing as technology addiction because we’re always using technology. It’s just a part of our lives.
How does technology help us?
Shaptarshi: It makes things more efficient. For example, if you’re going to write something, there’s a chance you might lose it. But if you type it, you can save different copies and upload them to another place. [There are also things like] medical technologies, translators, and electric cars.
Zekre: It’s just more convenient. When you’re looking for information, you can just get it online instead of trying to find resources in books or on paper. And it doesn’t waste as much paper as printing something out.
Xavier: Communication is faster. Back in the day, you would have to send mail and it might get lost somewhere but now we have email, which is a lot easier.
On the flip side, how does it harm us?
Ana: It can make conversations more difficult. The theory is that we get so used to being behind a screen that we don’t know how to talk to people in real life.
Joarder: It really depends on your personality. If you’re naturally outgoing, it doesn’t pose much of a problem.
Xavier: Then again, because technology makes it so easy to communicate with others, in the future maybe people won’t want to go out anymore. Eventually all of us will be constrained to one virtual reality that we enter and people will stop actually going out.
How does technology affect teens’ social skills and ability to engage?
Zekre: People get really comfortable in a safety zone behind a screen. It’s easier to express yourself and people are not shy because no one is watching. When you have to interact in different real-life situations, maybe you’re not as outspoken and it can be harder to communicate.
Shaptarshi: Teens engage differently with technology. Take texting, for example. Face-to-face, you have to wonder if people are really saying what they mean and what their motives are, but when you’re typing a message it’s much more concise. Even emoticons have made communication easier. They’re not as complicated as trying to analyze facial expressions.
Ana: But with emojis, the other person doesn’t know what we’re actually feeling so that can be a disadvantage as well.
Should screen time be limited?
Shaptarshi: No, because homework always takes a varied amount of time whether we’re studying for a test or have a big assignment [to finish].
Ana: Yes. Parents should limit us and it should start at a young age. This way, we start learning how to use technology wisely. My parents used to take my phone away while I was doing my homework and it helped me learn how to use my time more responsibly.
Xavier: Hypothetically, it should be limited because truthfully technology is kind of distracting. But as a teenager, I wouldn’t want it to happen.
Do schools have the right to impose limits on technology use?
Shaptarshi: Yes, schools should be allowed to limit how we use technology because they know what the best learning environment is for us. [BISS] doesn’t allow Skype unless it’s for educational purposes like group work. A lot of game sites are also blocked.
Zekre: There are free time sessions and that’s the time you can use technology the way you want. There’s no way a school can ban technology, but students should recognize that time in school is meant for us to interact with each other. School is when we should be in the moment with people.
How can students learn to engage with their peers better without using technology?
Xavier: We have “BISS on the Road” every year, where we go somewhere outside of school. We don’t bring our computers. With these types of activities, we can learn more social skills or develop them further.
Ana: The electricity went out one night. Everyone got together and played games and just talked. Before that, we were all on our phones using the Internet. It was a pretty interesting.
Xavier: At least we knew how to socialize.
This article originally appeared on p44-45 in the November 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org