With the ever-increasing advances in technology, there is also increasing concern over whether people now rely on technology so much that they may have become dependent on it. This concern for having become dependent on technology is justified because the role of technology has expanded to handle so many different aspects of our lives, and we now use technology in so many different ways routinely. In contrast, in the past, similar tasks were carried out without the aid of any technologies. Technology has no doubt had a tremendous impact on our lives in many ways, such as through making information and other things more accessible, facilitating all kinds of tasks, including communication, making life easier and more enjoyable. Still, these developments have come at the expense of reducing our involvement, making people unable to cope with situations when the technology breaks down, and so on. It is argued that conditions of over-reliance and dependency do exist, so technology has indeed taken over and that people should, therefore, use technology effectively so they can derive its benefits but also cautiously so that it does not cause any detrimental effects in a situation where they are avoidable.
Technology is not always guaranteed to work, so sometimes, a contingency plan is necessary. In an article on technology dependence written over a decade ago, McCune mentioned a pager satellite fiasco when up to ninety percent of pagers in the US were no longer able to receive messages. The big problems many people faced, such as a couple of psychiatrists who had to remain by their phone all night for the sake of their patients. Other similar outages have involved ATM’s going out of service and the Internet slowing down to a crawl. These incidents highlight the false impression that we will always have access to the technology (McCune, 10), which is not necessarily the case, and thus the need for having contingency plans. It was mentioned that at the time, there were even banks without a disaster recovery plan and alternative equipment. As highlighted in the case of a lecturer who had to face technical difficulties with a prepared presentation, which then resorted to using an overhead projector, even with alternative equipment, one should be prepared for the possibility of having to use it.
These examples mentioned above of technology failure also show a potential problem for the US government, one of the biggest problems being cyber-based threats to security that could disrupt government operations. The US government’s Accountability Office regards computerized information systems that support the nation’s infrastructure as a high-risk area (gao.gov). The dependency on embedded information and communication technologies is typical of organizations that aim to gain operational efficiency, maximize profits, reduce delays, improve the quality of their decision making, etc. (Grimaila et al.). However, it poses the risk of data access issues, degradation, corruption, loss, etc. This level of dependency where the information is critical would require the need to be prepared for the risk and to ensure the organization’s objectives can still be attained in the event of any problems. At the turn of the century, for instance, there was serious concern over the millennium bug. The British American Security Information Council even warned all military powers in the world to de-activate their weapons to avoid a vast if not massive failure of the systems with possibly disastrous consequences, and the Pentagon’s efforts were also in a mess at the time (Drudge Report). The difficulty was mainly due to outdated hardware to be Y2K compliant.
The government also recognizes the problem of ‘Internet addiction’ in American society, and it has a Technology Policy in place to address the problem (EdTechPolicy). This addiction usually takes the form of excessive online gaming, social networking and blogging, and abuse of email or online shopping, and the experience provides addicts with a psychological escape from otherwise stressful or unpleasant situations. This problem is not confined to US society, however. Internet technology dependence is a global problem. In South Korea, for instance, a strange incident occurred when a couple addicted to the Internet became so engrossed in raising a virtual daughter online that they neglected to feed their real premature baby properly (BBC News).
Consequently, the baby died of malnutrition. The addiction was due to the couple losing their will to lead to everyday life after losing their jobs. In China, addiction to the Internet is officially recognized as a clinical disorder, and it is a significant health threat among teenagers. For young boys addicted to online gaming in China, special rehabilitation camps have been arranged where they are subjected to military discipline, hypnosis treatment, and mild electro-shock therapy (Moore, 2008).
Nowadays, the dominance of technology in people’s lives is so great, that technological tools such as mobile phones are regarded as ‘must-have,’ and many people would not be able to cope without them. A poll by CNET, for instance, found that 28% of a sample of people in the US admitted being unable to live without access to high-speed Internet (UABkscope). As a consequence of the over-dependence, many young people have even lost their instinct to be curious about nature and to explore the world around them. This is evident from the observation of many children spending too long either in front of a television or behind a computer screen or video game. In some of these cases, technology has made people more passive. For those who spend too much time using technology unproductively, it has made them unable to perform more critical and useful tasks such as finding information from books, using practical instruments, and so on. People should learn to strike a balance between using technology and being able to cope without it. Children especially should be given opportunities to engage in all kinds of activities, both with and without involving technology.
The issue of technology dependence has become so important nowadays that the problem is recognized, and measures are taken to address it. An early study by Glendinning et al. investigated quantitative characteristics related to technology-dependent children in the UK based on survey data. It was estimated there may be up to 6,000 such children, and that the additional cost of caring for each of them may be as much as £150,000 a year. The dependency in their cases is on medical technology such as artificial feeding devices, ventilators, oxygen therapy, and hemodialysis, hence the high costs. Moreover, the dependency is unavoidable due to the seriousness of their health issues, as around 2,800 of these have to receive artificial feeding. This shows in some cases, technology dependence is not always a matter of choice, and contingency planning may not always be possible. In more recent years, the estimated number of children recognized as being technology dependent has increased rapidly in the UK (Cockett, 32).
In many of these cases, though, not only was the situation brought on unavoidably, technological developments have themselves been responsible for making more people dependent so the state can be seen as a vicious cycle. For instance, technological developments have helped to increase survival rates among premature infants, children born with abnormalities, and have greatly improved pediatric intensive care (Wang & Barnard). The consequences of this kind of technological dependence on the children affected include being isolated from their peers and often having to spend long periods in a hospital. The lives of parents of such dependent children are also profoundly altered. Many parents report practical, emotional, and financial burdens on an almost daily basis, and they find it difficult to arrange to provide the necessary care and support for their children. As for the cycle, it should be recognized so that technology is implemented wisely by minimizing dependency where possible while at the same time allowing to reap its benefits in situations where it is useful.
Besides the medical field, technology is also being used widely in the context of education and is providing both learners and educators with great benefits. These benefits include access to information, making distance learning possible in the form of e-learning, facilitating the teaching tasks of teachers, and making learning enjoyable (Smith). The Internet has been instrumental in making information more easily and widely accessible, so Internet technology is a perfect example of a technology that has made a huge and positive impact on people’s lives. With the Internet, it is now possible to obtain information for which previously, people may have needed to go outside. Similarly, in distance learning by post, advances in educational technology now make it possible for people to acquire an education and learn from their own home without having to be physically present in a class in an academic institution. At the same time, the way technology can present information through interaction and multimedia content; learning can also be made to be much more enjoyable and attractive, especially for young learners, than was possible before.
In short, technology has enriched the field of education immensely, just as it has in healthcare, business engineering, and many other fields. It is now not only a useful but also an indispensable tool in the hands of educators and learners alike. As such, the benefits of technology should be allowed to be realized, but the adoption of technology should be specially targeted to situations where they could be most useful. A specific area of technology that is benefitting education greatly is virtual technology for showing simulations to providing an immersive experience to students (Smedley & Higgins, 114). Technology has proven to be especially useful for assisting students with disabilities, for making environments accessible to students that would otherwise be either not safe or too costly in classrooms such as laboratory experiments and field trips. Virtual reality is also beneficial in training drivers and pilots for the same reasons, as a simulator can create a variety of complicated situations to provide them with all kinds of training (Lu et al., 438).
The usefulness of technology is not, therefore, in doubt; first, it is over-dependence on technology that can become an issue. Though not universally accepted, the benefits of technology in the classroom in terms of making learning easier and more enjoyable is leading to more people embracing technology in education (Hicks). The heavy use of technology, however, also requires people to be trained to use it effectively, and this is becoming increasingly important in society. There is a need for students to learn to use technology effectively so that they can find and use the information they want. For this, educators also need to understand technology to remain at the forefront of changes (Marcoux, 61). Importantly, technology should not be seen as a ‘fix’ in education, but it is undoubtedly a tool that has the potential to help immensely in the teaching and learning processes. Technology education is, therefore, critical in a technology-dominated society (Brown & Brown), but by promoting this skill, greater dependency on technology is inadvertently also promoted. The need for technology education has become important, though, because innovation in the field of technology has become so rapid that even many parents and educators are not up-to-date with their knowledge of how to handle the technology (Barreto & Adams, 3).
Despite the benefits mentioned earlier, however, there are also many risks in the educational context. Besides the risk of technological dependence, which is under focus, it also causes an imbalance between the actual and virtual worlds and problems from cyber-bullying to plagiarism. Technology in the field of education has also been applied for teaching young children as well as older children. Still, excessive dependence has been shown to lead to such problems as poor regulation, intense arousal, and it takes time away from important activities such as reading (Barreto & Adams, 3). To prevent over-exposure, then, it is necessary to take such measures as limiting screen time. There is also a possibility that the intense usage of video games and the Internet can lead to behavioral problems. Teachers, as well as parents, should, therefore, limit the time their children spend in front of a computer for ensuring all-round development, and also be aware of any suspicious activity so they can be protected from online risks.
The negative educational impact of technology is evident, notably in the widespread use of calculators and spell-checkers. It could be argued that for calculation, the abacus, which has been used for thousands of years, was also a piece of technology. However, before the calculator came about, analyses still involved mental exertion. Calculators, on the other hand, are even used by many people for the simplest of calculations because they have less confidence in their abilities and regard the calculator as more reliable. Although the calculator can be handy for long and complex calculations, and calculator functions are also readily available nowadays in mobile phones and other devices, a situation could still arise when a simple analysis needs to be done mentally. It could be embarrassing if the person is unable to do so.
Moreover, it is still necessary for people to be able to ensure they use the calculator correctly and that the answer it gives is reasonable, as a simple error in the entry can, of course, make a massive difference in the result. It is the same case with an over-reliance on spell checkers, which are limited by the vocabulary in their dictionary, so selecting auto-correction may not always be the best option. Calculators, spell-checkers, computers, and other such technologies can only be useful if they are operated correctly according to their capacity or capability. They can also be error-prone in certain situations. Users should be in mind the limitations of such tools when using them, and be able to handle at least basic calculation tasks and be sufficiently literate so they can also cope without them when necessary.
The increasing use of technology has been shown to have both potentially positive benefits and negative consequences. In either case, technology is having a profound impact on our lives, as is noticeable, for instance, in the medical and educational fields. Despite its many benefits, however, it has created an issue of dependency for many people as well, and this appears to be a growing problem. Several examples were given to show how the impact of technology has led to no longer being able to cope without it. People who are not utilizing the potential of technology fully should be made aware of its potential benefits, and those who are should also be made aware of the potential pitfalls that lead to over-dependency. As the examples from the medical field showed, in some cases, the dependency is unavoidable, but in those cases where it is, people should be capable of contingency planning. And, as is very important in education, they should ensure they develop other skills as well, such as from physically demanding activities, instead of over-using technology to the extent that it adversely affects their health.
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