The Good Side of Technology: It’s Not All Bad!

post by Takara Bond, Graduate student in the Human Development, Learning, and Culture Program at the University of British Columbia.

Many of us have become enamored with our technology. We wake up and our phone is beside us, bursting with notifications. We start our day by checking social media, seeing what our friends have been up to and how many likes our last Instagram post received. Then as we are getting ready, we may scroll through Facebook while eating breakfast or read the news on Twitter while going to school or work. When we need a break from work, we often turn to Instagram to look at cute cats and travel destinations. At lunch, we might share the latest viral video with classmates and coworkers between replying to snaps on Snapchat. Then, we head home with a podcast or music playing in our ears, preparing for an evening of Netflix while cycling through Tumblr, Reddit, and 9gag.

Often, we focus on the negative aspects of having a high integration of social technology in our lives. Here on this blog and website, we have discuss such things as cyberbullying to Internet addiction, as well as the risks of lonliness, and reduced face2face social interaction. Yet, there are many benefits that arise from social technology, when it is used in moderation.

Social technology allows us to stay in touch with friends who live far away, enhances the friendships with those who live nearby, and allow us to establish new friendships with like-minded people. This is especially beneficial for people who experience marginalization, (i.e., ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+, individuals with disabilities). This social connection promotes resilience and a sense of belonging, both of which are beneficial for teens and adults alike.

Social technology can also be used to support our learning by planning a study group, sharing relevant information found online, and communicating with others to find out what we missed while away. We can engage with social technology to learn more about things we enjoy or information we didn’t understand at work or school and gain insight into what’s happening in our community and the world around us. These ways of using social technology promote both academic engagement and civic engagement, with many teens becoming more politically aware and involved through social technology.

And finally, we enjoy using social technology as it’s a window into other’s experiences and it provides different perspectives. Positive comments and likes received on social technology provide empowerment, and one in five teens say that social technology makes them feel more confident.

To experience these benefits, however, it is important to find balance – being glued to our devices at the expense of living life is not healthy or adaptive, so it’s important to encourage your child (and yourself) not to lose site of that balance.  Below are some conversations starters to talk with youth to help them ensure that they are spending a healthy and appropriate amount of time online:

  • Do you think social technology makes your friendships stronger or weaker, and why?
  • Do you interact similarly with your friends whether it’s online or face2face (talk about the same things; share as much)? How do you think each way of socializing helps or weakens your friendships?
  • Where do you go to online to learn more about material from school, world news, or your other interests? How can you be sure that the information you’re reading is true? Are there other ways to get information?
  • How do you make sure you aren’t spending too much time using social technology? What are some signs that you’ve been online too long?

Want more information about the benefits of social technology? Take a look here:

http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/141862/20160405-1343/www.youngandwellcrc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/The-Benefits-of-Social-Networking-Services.pdf

https://schools.au.reachout.com/articles/benefits-of-internet-and-social-media

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/social-media-social-life-how-teens-view-their-digital-lives

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/samantha-goodyear/the-power-of-social-media_3_b_5161138.html