The Technology Takeover: Should We Be Worried About Our Children’s Future?

Sarah and Jacob Dukofsky said sometimes their iPads make paying attention in class extremely difficult, since they are just one tap away from playing a game or surfing the internet. ©️ 2018 Sam Rothman

Click the play button to find out about technology’s impact on students’ lives both inside and outside the classroom. 

Audio Transcript: Technology Takeover

By Sam Rothman SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — For many people, a typical elementary class consisted of students sitting at desks copying notes off of either a chalkboard or a whiteboard. Some students may have chosen a pen over a pencil, but either way, they still wrote on paper. However, this classic school scene is quickly changing as students grow up with technology.

For Long Island native Jenn Dukofsky, homework time was never an issue with her two children. She established strict rules from the moment her kids rode on the school bus for the first time.

“They get off the bus, and they do their homework first,” Dukofsky said. “They’ve been trained to do that since they started school in kindergarten.”

However, as technology has made its way into the classroom, those rules have become harder to follow. When Dukofsky’s son Jacob, 10, was in kindergarten, he would run off the bus and immediately sit at the table to do his homework. Jacob, now in fifth grade, still takes a seat at the table once he gets home from school. However, instead of a pencil in hand, Jacob is holding his iPad.

“Jacob, put your iPad down and come do your homework,” Dukofsky said on one Tuesday afternoon.

To Jacob’s defense, he may have been doing his homework. Four years ago, the Hauppauge School District in Long Island, New York started giving an iPad to each student to use both in the classroom and to do homework.

Whereas Dukofsky never had an issue with homework before classrooms became digital, she revealed the iPad now makes it an everyday struggle. She has to constantly look over Jacob’s shoulder to make sure he is doing math instead of playing a game.

Dukofsky said the school district invested in thousands of iPads because educators believed the devices would make the learning process more efficient. However, Dukofsky has seen the opposite result.

“When Jacob was doing a math problem and he didn’t know it, all he did was ask Siri what the answer was and he got it,” Dukofsky said. 

While Dukofsky grew up looking for answers in textbooks, now all Jacob has to do is a quick Google search and he has everything he needs at his fingertips. However, she doesn’t think that accessibility is necessarily beneficial.

“These kids rely so heavily on electronics that they don’t put the time and effort into their homework,” Dukofsky said. 

Unlike her brother, Dukofsky’s daughter Sarah, 12, thinks using iPads can create more problems rather than solving them.

“Let’s say you have a device with all of your study notes and the WiFi just turns off or everything just deletes because you don’t save it properly,” she said. “Then, you have nothing to study. At least if it’s on paper, you can look back in your notes.”

Dukofsky’s concerns about technology don’t just apply in school. She feels electronics have a negative impact on her kids’ social skills.

“Even when the kids hang out with their friends, they sit next to each other on their iPads and don’t say a word,” Dukofsky said. “To see that these kids can’t go anywhere without a phone, it’s disgusting.”

Due to these reasons, many parents are limiting their children’s technology use. However, parents working in Silicon Valley aren’t just setting limits; they’re banning technology altogether, according to a recent New York Times article.

Chad Harper, a professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, believes these parents came to this decision because they have a deep knowledge of how our electronics work, and most importantly, understand the dangers of technology.

“They know what we don’t know,” Harper said. “They know what people are doing with your data. They know that just walking down the street, I know who you are. I know all of your bank accounts. I can get to all of the information about you in a snap.”

That lack of privacy has made many parents fearful of technology. However, Harper doesn’t believe banning technology is the right approach. Instead, he has taught his kids how to use computers and the internet safely. Harper feels it’s extremely important for children to use technology so they don’t just see the negative aspects, but also understand how it can be a powerful tool to explore their creativity.

“My 12-year-old daughter since she was nine has had a blog,” Harper said. “My son makes stop-motion animation with his Legos. A lot of that technical proficiency comes from just overcoming the fear of technology, which comes from the use of technology.”

Many parents may disagree on whether technology should be used in schools. Some may feel electronics are beneficial to children and allow them to gather more knowledge. Others may think technology’s addictive nature and disruption of privacy outweigh the positives. However, there is one thing they can all agree on. Technology is taking over.

“They have access to everything,” Harper said. “Everything has access to them.”

Professor Chad Harper teaches college students how to code in his database management class at Syracuse University. However, Harper's children, who are both in middle school, already know how to code thanks to dad. ©️ 2018 Sam Rothman