Digital Dependency: Beneficial or Detrimental?

As we transition out of the pandemic and into the modern technology-driven world, screen times are increasing, and controversy is arising on whether or not schools’ digital dependency is a progressive step for those affected. Hand-written notes based on 90-minute classroom lectures became a Google document flooded with information from an hour-long Zoom meeting. 

When schools were forced online, utilizing platforms such as Zoom, there was a drastic switch in how classrooms function, growing the aforementioned “digital dependency” of schools; pencil-and-paper-based assignments are starting to become foreign. The use of technology is certainly valuable in terms of convenience, but it also increases students’ screen time. According to WebMD, a new study shows that “the average amount of time children spent staring at screens during the COVID-19 pandemic rose 52%” (Ellis, “Kids’ Screen Time…”). As students continue to rely heavily on technology – Google Classroom, dubbed the headquarters of a class – screen times rack up, especially with the existence of several social media platforms and streaming services posing as distractions. With both your schoolwork AND your favorite Netflix show open two tabs to the left, it’s easy for distractions to steer you away from your schoolwork (I currently have “Gilmore Girls” on pause four tabs down). Consequently, several students end up spending more time on screens than they originally intended. 

However, on the other hand, electricity and robotics teacher Mr. Trisler describes how the use of technology has facilitated a more comfortable environment for struggling students due to the easy access to information it provides. A co-creator of MakerLessons, a website designed to provide students and teachers with a detailed guide to all things electricity, Mr. Trisler explains how “if you don’t understand something, you can pull back on one of these hyperlinks.” Though he agrees that “there is nothing to replace the process of pen and paper,” MakerLessons allows students to independently review the material and have everything accessible at once, allowing for “equitable access to information.” 

Sophomore Riya Jain firmly believes that the transition into a digital society is disadvantageous and unnecessarily strains students’ eyes. She explains how she “used to get migraines during online school because of how often [she] was forced to look at screens.” Physical copies and materials help her retain information more effectively, and she misses writing on paper. She prefers to annotate and mark up her notes, which is significantly more of a struggle on Google Docs. Working on paper also helps her avoid distractions. For many students, by avoiding unnecessary usage of their Chromebooks, the urge to complete assignments for other classes or do something one should not be doing is prevented.

In contrast, sophomore Prisha Malik identifies working with technology as “less wasteful, more organized, more accessible, and taking up less physical space.” She also looks at the situation from an environmental perspective in the sense that less paper leads to less deforestation. She would prefer taking notes on an iPad compared to taking notes on paper for organization purposes as well as for ease. Issuing students with iPads may possibly prove more beneficial in a classroom setting for many students, as the same movements are performed on the iPad versus paper, and students will be able to retain information to the same extent as students taking notes on paper. 

Schools eventually will inevitably grow a full reliance on technology as it evolves with the changing times – the pandemic serves as a catalyst for this ongoing change. However, the debate lies on whether we as a society are ready for such a change, and if it truly is a progressive step for schools, given the effects technology has on students.