Technology affects our lives both positively and negatively. While it enables greater productivity, it discourages physical activity. As technology expands further into the Internet of Things, cloud services and devices get to know you better, it opens new doors for positive and negative effects. Although devices may serve you better intuitively, companies or individuals may misuse the data to invade your privacy. At every turn, each innovation provides the opportunity to produce positive or negative effects.
Physically, technology causes you to engage in less activity. Rather than walk, one drives. The increased use of automobiles contributes to air pollution.
Children use mobile devices as entertainment, rather than engaging in outdoor play. A recent study in the UK revealed that 49 percent of seven and eight year olds engaged in less than the recommended one hour of daily physical activity. It surveyed 6,500 children. A second UK study uncovered that 12 years of age is the median age a child receives their first cell phone. One in 10 children receive their first cell by age five though. A similar activity survey in the US revealed that 71 percent of high school students failed to participate in 60 minutes of physical activity per day. An earlier study conducted in Spain in 2008 polled children aged six to 18 years of age. It found 52 percent of children did less than the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity. As we provide mobile technologies to children at younger ages, we discourage physical activity and sense of play. It extends to adults, as well. A similar 2008 study found that 31 percent of adults worldwide do not engage in 60 minutes of physical activity per day. In childhood, we learn the habits that last through life, so an inactive childhood more likely spawns an inactive and unhealthy adulthood.
Beyond inactivity and its commensurate health effects, technology also impacts our communications. Rather than personally visiting for certain occasions, we text, phone or make a video call. The rise of social media networks as a substitute for personal interaction erodes friendships. It also can spawn jealousy between friends.
Mobile gadgets even affect sleep patterns and reduce the amount of sleep people get, if their use isn’t limited. First, the blue light mobile devices emit reduces the body’s melatonin production. That’s the hormone controlling your circadian rhythm which tells your body when to sleep and wake. To circumvent this effect, you should turn off your phone and charge it in another room at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. Your brain needs at least a half an hour’s break from the screen to function properly.
Mobile phones enable low-cost or free long distance calling, making it easier to keep in touch with far away friends and family. Another communication medium, the Internet, allows those in any location to access online learning opportunities, including college course. People can attend college wholly online and earn their degree. This opens new doors to those in far-flung locations, with limited travel capabilities or who are home bound. Similarly, about 79 percent of the workforce now consists of those working on virtual teams. Working remotely, often from home, has become a reality for many who use e-mail, direct messaging, online collaboration tools and video conferences to work with other team members. This expands the availability of employment to those in any location with Internet and allows even those who are bedridden to productively work.
Technologies such as automobiles, trains and airplanes allow you to quickly reach destinations once limited to a select few or previously unreachable. Building on this technology, the human race has explored the stars, visited the moon and placed a space station in orbit that allows astronauts and scientists to live in space. They conduct research in a weightless orbit that aids research on earth, specifically providing deeper understanding of health issues. It also enables closer study to how deep space functions and may provide insight into why the universe in which we live, which was long expanding, began contracting.
Agricultural technologies led to the ability to grow enough food to meet the requirements of the world’s population. Although some, such as GMO, proved controversial, the technology does increase yield.
Electric appliances make life simpler and enable healthy food storage. Without a refrigerator, you would still need daily ice and milk delivery. By choosing energy-efficient appliances you reduce air pollution and your energy bills.
Technology can help or hinder. It comes down to each person’s choice of how to use it. Used as a pacifier, mobile devices negatively impact children. Used as a communications tool to talk with grandparents each week, it positively impacts families. Each person determines the balance. A device can encourage more activity by installing and using a pedometer app or exercise app. Transportation helps reach far-flung locations, but each person must choose to walk to close locations to increase healthy activity and reduce air pollution impacts. Technologies impacts can all become positive when used correctly.