Walking through the Towson University campus, the steady hum of cell phones going off is a reminder of the technological age that has struck twenty-somethings across the country. Walking between her classes Emilee Leichman pulls out her cell phone for company to walk two minutes from her class in Van Bokkelen Hall to where her car is parked on the street. In her opinion, her gadget has become a part of her every day life.
“I couldn’t imagine not having my phone on me,” said Leichman, “I keep my phone with me all the time and I am never seen without it.” The never ending trend of social media linked through teens and young adults gadgets is making face-to-face communication almost impossible. With the take-off of twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest, vine and many more social media sites, it is no wonder how the new generations social skills are suffering.
Chas Rayome, system administrator at HouseCall IT is familiar with the ever expanding technology and expects it to only increase productivity in the workplace. He says that it allows people within a company to stay in contact with each other when they are many miles away. Staff can share information in real time with users in many different locations which only increases productivity since the simple days of typewriters and whiteout, he says. “The services that IT companies provide now vastly benefit the end user such as the ability to remote into someone’s machine which saves time for the user and the support staff” says Rayome.
Sitting in a Starbucks, Jonathan Wolfe holds his large black coffee in one hand and a newspaper in another. He believes technology in general has had a negative impact on children of all ages.
“When I was little I was happy with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and baseball cards” says Wolfe. I watch my brothers kids fight over playing with his laptop and they each have a cell phone, but they are only 6 and 8 years old.” Children using gadgets aren’t the only thing Wolfe has an opinion about. “The media is having such a bad effect on kids today,” Wolfe says. “Little girls who can’t be older than ten are wearing shorts that barely cover everything. I don’t understand how parents let their kids outside like that. I think the media plays a large role in this.”
“I believe that children have become far too consumed with technology,” says Rayome, “Twenty years ago was 1993, the modern browser was only a year old, PDF and Email were just invented. It would be another two years until Windows 95 and Sony Playstation came out. There were no cell phones for anyone under the age of 20, no mp3 players and no social networking sites. Now children are introduced to technology as early as three months old. Just a quick browse to Target.com will show a bumper for babies that holds an iPhone that babies can drool over and throw around.”
With technology getting smaller and becoming more user friendly, it is also becoming more powerful. Rayome perceives that technology is only going to get smaller and become more powerful, while others see the drawbacks of technology in the 21st century.
At a local family restaurant, server Shelby Johnson says she sees teens on their gadgets all the time and wonders why they spend money to go out to eat but not talk to each other. “I go up to a table and try to ask children what they want to drink and they don’t even hear me because they are too busy playing games on their phones or they have headphones in their ears.” Johnson said. She mentions that many times it takes the parents calling their child’s name two or three times before they are even heard.
Social media’s role in the development of young children is becoming more apparent every day according to a 2010 Neilson study that found teenagers are sending approximately 3,400 text messages every month and 100 text messages every day. “I don’t understand how these kids become so consumed with this stuff. I could forget my phone at home and go to work and not think twice about it” says Wolfe.
With the new Samsung Galaxy Smartwatch that was released on September 25, the hoopla for the rise in technology is increasing. “I think the Smartwatch is a terrible idea and people will look ridiculous talking into their watches” said Wolfe. The new Smartwatch connects to the individual’s cell phone via Bluetooth and allows the user to talk, text and use social media through the watch. Starting at two hundred ninety-nine dollars, people are jumping at the chance to be the first to own one of these new gadgets according to the reviews on the Verizon website.
Rayome acknowledges that children’s social skills are decreasing, but he provides the reverse alternative to taking gadgets away from children. “Now before we stop children from ever touching electronics again, we have to think there is a plus side to this” says Rayome. “The human species is getting smarter. Parents just need to use technology as another tool. Children today still need to get outside and interact with others because when they do, they will become more valuable as they grow into the professional world.”
With technology taking over not everyone is against it. Leichman believes that is a great thing.
“I am from New York and it’s hard for me to keep in touch with my friends from home, but facebook and twitter help me do that. I really like that it is instant communication for me and my friends.”
It appears the question is no longer whether people are too attached to their gadget, but if it is taking over communication skills. “I don’t think I have a problem talking with people,” said Leichman. “I can strike up a conversation with people I have never met just as much now as I ever have. Being on facebook and text messaging doesn’t affect that for me.”