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Description: A study from Stanford University, published Wednesday, wrestles with a new question: How is technology affecting their happiness and emotional development?

Source: nytimes .com

Date: Jan 25, 2012

The research raises as many questions as it seeks to answer, as the scientists readily acknowledge. That is because the research was based on an online survey taken by more than 3,400 girls, a sample that may well not be representative of the larger population and, because the responses are self-reported, are not subject to follow-up or verification by the researchers.

Among the crucial questions that the researchers were not able to answer is whether the heavy use of media was the cause for the relative unhappiness or whether girls who are less happy to begin with are drawn to heavy use of media, in effect retreating to a virtual world.   Read Rest of Story

Questions for discussion:

  1. How is technology affecting their happiness and emotional development?
  2. Do you have confidence in this studies finding? Why or Why not?

19 Responses to “Does Technology Affect Happiness?”

  1. CAP

    Technology is definitely affecting people’s lives. In my opinion, its affecting kids more now a days than adults. Most adults are just now getting more involved into technology and using the different types of gadgets that are available. These adults have already grown and matured without being so bombarded with technology that it would be easy for them to just leave their gadgets and socialize face to face without being uncomfortable because they are used to it. Kids now a days just stay at home and watch TV or play on their iPads that they don’t really know how to interact with others. Just like in the article it says that kids don’t know how to read body language or cues that they need to know because they are so into technology that they dont socialize. Now I’m not saying that technology is horrible and we should get rid of it, there are positive uses that technology has. Being able to communicate with people half way around the world using skype or the phone is a great example of how technology has helped with communication. Technology can be good or bad. Too much of anything is always bad so people just need to find that balance. Parents should limit their kid’s access to the technolgy they have. They should motivate and push their children to being more social in their communities.

  2. Sarah

    Technology changes the way children interact with the world around them. The concerns talked about in this article are based on what children use to do before technology was available. In some cases, the concerns are exaggerated due to the comparisons people make from different generations of kids. Specifically, girls feel the need to be connected with the most popular thing at the time. In this generation, social networking is one of the most popular forms of communication and therefore, some girls feel that being a part of the social networks will make them more popular with their peers at school, among other things. I agree that on-line chatting is very two-dimensional and the amount of time spent on the internet slows young girl’s development and face-to-face communication skills. Parents of children prone to this type of activity should enrol their kids in organized sports or other extra curricular activities to limit their screen time.
    This is not the first article to discuss the effects of too much technology use in young girls but the article does mention the flaws in the statistics. It is hard to gather useful and accurate data on-line because you don’t really know if the subject really is a young girl or not. If the studies had better variables, this argument would be more believable. But since I know there are more articles out there talking about the same thing, I think the argument is very valid and our generation should pay close attention to how much technology use our children are getting.

  3. Rueben

    Technology in the large has changed the way that people seam to interact with one another, not to say the least at how the upcoming generation is currently struggling with “person to person” interaction. I really wish that they had bigger audience to partake in the study and better perimeters so it could be more accurate. I wrote a paper on the happiness of students from grade 3-8 a couple years and predicted that people would loose allot of their social skills due to the fact that it is such a free environment in the “screen world” thus leading to less human interaction between one another. The less human interaction we have an more screen time we log the worse our social skills are thus leading people to feel left out of groups who are social. I think that if parents don’t take a stand and force their children to associate with one another face to face so that they can develop the social skills that are so important in life. These social skills are not just important in school and social settings but also in the real work world where you are faced with challenges each day and i tell ya, a computer screen is not going to solve them or tell your boss what solutions there are.

  4. Awesomeness

    After taking a few stats courses, I’ve learned to be extremely critical of any new study that comes out. And I honestly don’t believe that this sample of 3,000 adolescent girls can be used to represent the population as a whole. First of all, there is a selection bias: those who decided to take part in the survey may have just been more “depressed” and “socially awkward” than those who chose not to. Next, the girls they surveyed saw the ad in a DISCOVERY GIRL magazine – another selection bias. Maybe girls who read that magazine happen to be more withdrawn from society than those who read, say, cosmo-girl.
    I also think it’s funny how the researchers found that the average amount of media use by the girls surveyed was 6.9 hours per day, a figure that included READING as well as screen time. Who’s to say these girls aren’t just bookworms?
    Also, they can’t even prove the ages of these girls, follow up on the survey, they know nothing about the participants.
    Anyways, in my opinion, I’m sure technology has negative effects on some people. However, technology and the internet can also have extremely positive effects on people as well. You can get advice from people, relate to people, and reconnect with people.
    All being said, obviously I’m extremely skeptical of this article/study and have almost no confidence in its findings. Find me a real study, with valid results, then we’ll talk.

  5. Jillian Howard

    The study on whether or not technology affects happiness was inconclusive due to several limitations. The results would have been biased towards the views of those who are heavy technology users’ since it was an online survey. This article suggests that media does affect individuals happiness. I agree with this conclusion; however I do not base my beliefs on the survey’s results. People do not communicate face to face the same way they communicate using technology. They may have more confidence and the message that they are portraying feels remote as they don’t have to feel the emotions of the person on the other side of that message. As well, the intended message is not always perceived correctly through technology due to a lack of gestures, tones, etc. In order to become positively social I believe people require face to face interaction. This allows individuals to take notice of the situation with all of their senses when technology would not allow them to do so. As a result, I believe technology somewhat shuts a person off from reality. This in turn affects their social development and puts individuals in a place of seclusion which will have negative effects.

  6. nelizer

    I don’t see any reason why technology can affect the kid’s happiness. Today, most of the kids are so dependent to the different forms of technology such as: online games, different kind of gadgets, networking sites like facebook, twitter, Friendster, and more. The affects of technology create a huge argument on how the heavy use of media is a contributing factor to the social challenges of girls. This is the main issue here. Most of the kids now are interacting with their friends through media, most of the time conversation usually occurred online and kids don’t inter act anymore on a face -to-face contact. These actions will affect their capability on how to interact and behave in public. Conversation over the phone, facebook, msn, skype is way different that having a conversation in a face- to -face manner. This habits will create a huge problem for kids on how to learn to read body language, and subtle facial and verbal cues.
    “Humans are built to notice these cues — the quavering in your voice, perspiration, body posture, raise of an eyebrow, a faint smile or frown,” said Clifford Nass. This means that kids who spend most of their time with the technology will become less human in the sense that they will become less sensitive because they will loss the ability to read facial expression. Technology doesn’t affect happiness, but it affects the personality of the kids.
    As regards to the finding of the studies, the result will not justify the conclusion that technology affecting the happiness and emotional development of the kids. First, its an online survey, there was no proper supervision of the respondent or the sample; Second, the sample composed of only 3,400 girls, a sample that may well not be representative of the larger population and, lastly because the responses are self-reported, are not subject to follow-up or verification by the researchers

  7. Rosemary Aladedunye

    Technology affects happiness for good. It helps us to stay connected and making the world flat.The advent of games, online puzzle etc has positive effect on ability to think fact.Technology helps to save time and and reduce accident, for example if you want to travel to another city to look for someone, if the person has an email you send mail helps people to make friends online, chatting, playing and stay connected. If we are desperately looking for information, somebody somewhere has done the research of what you are searching for and the person pasted it online just to help us reduce the stress of searching. Once we found what we were looking, we are happy. Though it has its own side effect, lacking face to face issues and therefore inability to express or gauge emotions, those are inconsequential. Technology helps to reduce contact with people, which on a good day, some people don’t like others bugging. Some people can also get hooked up with technology (such as, watching their favourite sport or playing games) so much that they neglect spending time with their spouses and children, and fulfilling other important responsibilities. Many homes have been wrecked through such abuse of technology.

  8. Jingyi Wang

    In nowadays, we have more and more new smart technology. We can use Ipad to instead heavy and traditional PC, we can use the smart Phone to surf on line. We have different chart software to contact with our family and friends, like MSN and Facebook. Today, we almost can do everything with the technology. There is no doubt the development of the new technology brings us many benefits and makes our life more convincible. But according to the research of the article, the technology did not bring the so much happiness as we image. The teenagers spent much time on charting and social on line and lack the communication by face on face. It is not a good phenomenon; as the Clifford Nass said, for human beings, we many cues to develop the communication. During the communication, we need to hear the voices of each other’s, to see the expression and body language. The online social cannot meet these conditions. If things continue this way, the teenagers will lose the skills to communicate. There is an story: on the son’s computer screen, there is a massage left by the boy’s father, wrting: dear son, we have not meet each other since the Christmas, your mother and I miss you so much. If you have time, please go downstairs and have dinner with us…

  9. Jon

    The question does technology affect happiness is a subject that is a discussion that is incredibly broad. Technology CAN affect happiness in a positive way. It can connect people who have been lost for years. It can give access to an array of information in the blink of an eye. The issue presented in the article deals primarily with the effect of technology on social behaviours. Even though the results of the study have been questioned, I believe that they have some validity. I think that an increasing amount of people, especially young people, use technology as an escape. To avoid a conversation, they will pull out their Iphone and unnecessarily text a friend. People spend more time on Facebook, a WEBSITE that connects people with their friends than they do actually with their friends. I think these activities do affect their happiness in a negative way. Happiness should be found with people, not computers and smart phones. It should be found in conversation and personal relationships instead of emoticons and text messages.

  10. Morgan

    According to the article, humans are meant to notice subtle body changes, such as posture, tone of voice, facial expression, etc. When the majority of a person’s interaction is done via technology, they will miss out on all of those indications. The ability to read a person’s subtle clues is one that needs to be cultivated; if the little girls are not practicing this skill then they will not develop it fully. Furthermore, other studies have found that humans long for social interaction. Even introverted people need to spend some time with their peers in order to maintain a level of happiness. Just because the girls are speaking with other people online does not mean they are interacting with others as they should be.

    That being said, I do have problems with this survey. It was done online, which prevented researchers from verifying the girls’ ages, family situation, ethnic background, and follow up questions. The sample size was far too small to get an accurate representation, and they neglected to survey young boys to compare the results to. Additionally, the survey was advertised in a Discovery Girls magazine, which limits the responses considerably. If researches want to get a more accurate representation, they should start by taking sample sizes from schools across the country and compare them against boys of the same age, and females/males of different ages.

  11. mike

    Correlation does not imply causation! I find this article twisted the results of the study. If you use to much of anything it will be associated with negative levels of happiness. There are plenty of explanations of why video is linearly correlated with negative happiness other than technology causing unhappiness. For example those unhappy could use technology as a means of escape. “The fact that the study was based on an online survey gave pause to some academics.” Even draws more doubts to this study. disregarding how the study was performed and its limitations I will comment on the general question of does technology affect our happiness? I believe it obviously does as it is so ingrained in our lives. We use it every day most people for a few hours. The lack of interaction through technology brings up issues of people’s ability to socialize with one another. This in turn could lead to issues of unhappiness if we feel isolated. In general I believe people are able to communicate fine with the use of technology and although some people may lose social skills because they are not needed it is their choice to do so. the article tries to link this study into this debate which I believe it does not accomplish effectively at all as this is not what the study is trying to prove.

  12. MAS

    @Awesomeness I agree with you that this survey is biased and invalid. I’m pretty sure though that you can accurately predict with a certain amount of confidence what the population is like based on a sample of only 3000 people. They do it all the time, an example of this is during the elections. The sample just needs to be RANDOM, which this obviously is not. This article truly is a waste of space. Instead of blaming technology for all of the depressed and socially awkward teenagers, we should be blaming their ignorant and “busy” parents who don’t have the time or patience to pay attention to their kids. Using various forms of technology as “baby-sitters” has made raising children easy for today’s parents. The reason why teenagers spend so much time using computers, tablets, cell phones, and the like instead of interacting face to face is because they were raised by their parents to rely on these devices since childhood. They are depressed because they are not loved. How can a computer nurture and care for a child. It can’t.

  13. JX

    Today, an increasing number of technology communicate tool are using by us. These are convenient, but these also have problem for people. People have too much time of communication by internet such as those girls in the study in the story. We should have more face to face communication. Today, some children have trouble in figure out people’s body language and facial language such as a faint smile or frown. During the growth of children, they should reduce the time on using multimedia tools. In my opinion, I do not think the multimedia tools have more negatives than advantages. Using multimedia or technology is tendency of the world. If people do not use any technology or just use few technologies, they may harder get friends, especially for young man. Furthermore, lots of media has visual functions such as emotion icon and video chatting. Of course, people cannot too much rely on the technology tools. Face to face is a vital way of communication. It is hard to for children to the balance point between using technology and real communication. Anyway, I think using many kinds of technologies is an unavoidable tendency, and I do not think it will bring much damage for children on communication unless they are extreme user.

  14. IDR

    I don’t think we need a study to see how technology and social websites are affecting the way everyone interacts. I am sure that at some point in the last few years, one of us has thought of canceling our facebook profile for one reason or another. I know I have and about a year ago, I decided to cancel every single profile I had on the Internet (with the exception of LinkedIn). It was just so much of a waste of time and it was raising a few questions about my own social skills.
    As for the article, I think that the sample should have been larger; generalizations based on a small quantity of girls are not accurate enough to answer a single thesis. However, I do agree that there is a problem at hand, and some measures should be adopted to control the excess of screen time. I think that parents –especially- have the responsibility to set boundaries such as time limits on computers, game consoles and cellphones. As a parent, I try to engage with my kids by playing board games, and sports; I limit the usage of Ipods at the table and encourage family time.
    It is in our hands to be able to control this issue, which is obviously affecting more than teenagers.

  15. MJJ

    Technology does seem to be affecting the social and emotional development of girls and consequently their happiness. Technology allows them to hide behind the computer or cell phone when interacting. Things can be said without being able to see the immediate response of the recipient. Personal conversations and confrontations are no longer private when they are held via Facebook. You can respond to a text in a second without putting much thought into it, and both the original message and the response could have been misinterpreted completely. The decline of face-to-face communication leads to the inability to read body language and interpret social cues. The increased time spent doing sedentary activities can lead to increased health issues, included weight gain, which can affect the girls` happiness. The inability to effectively interpret social cues and responses could have current, as well as long term, negative effects. While the study does seem to reflect the general feeling of adult society regarding technology, development and happiness, it should be taken with a grain of salt. The scope of the study was extremely limited and most likely is not an accurate representation of the demographic as a whole. The questions asked may not have been able to provide enough information to obtain an accurate reflection of what the girls are feeling. What was reported is simply the author’s interpretation of the data. It should also be considered that the increased use of technology is just another step in the evolution of society and communication.

  16. Amber Dashney

    Technology may be affecting their happiness simply because they aren’t out doing things with their friends; instead they are inside at home on their computers and phones constantly. But on the other hand if they didn’t have a cell phone or computer this may also affect their happiness because they can`t talk to their friends as quickly as they may need to, to make plans or whatever they may need. I think it is affecting their emotional development because of what they mentioned in the article about not being able to see emotion through text messages or chats on facebook. But still kids go to school, cell phones aren`t accepted in the classroom so they aren`t completely missing out on these cues they should be picking up on, they may just be delayed because of time spent on computers and phones instead of face to face communication. I think more studies need to be done to actually prove what they are trying to prove. I don’t think the population was represented well enough and certain circumstances may be reason for the girls responses to the survey. I think they are on the right track but further studies are definitely needed for this study to be valid and reliable.

  17. Sagrika

    Even though the survey that was conducted had biased and invalid information, I still believe that technology had played a big role in affecting happiness. The girls aged 8-13 are now spending more time using technology than actually having face-to-face time with their families or friends. This has also caused misunderstandings because the message does not come across the same way as if it would have through face-to-face communication. It is also affecting their body language and the ability to understand the emotional behaviours when it comes to the “real world”. As the survey suggested that the average time that the young girls spend with actual interactions with people per day is only 2.1 hours. Parents are not able to spend quality time with their children because of technology and the girls reporting less happiness are heavy users of technology. If they were spending time with their families or friends more than their cell phones or internet, their happiness level would’ve been higher because the misunderstandings could’ve been avoided as well as the connection on an emotional level would’ve been greater. Therefore, I do think that technology is affecting happiness.

  18. Jay Retzlaff

    Technology is affecting happiness because children are becoming so dependent on technology as a social medium at such a young age that face to face social contact is being neglected. Learning how to interact with people when you are a child is nothing that should be neglected and too much time using technology shelters people from face to face contact. I feel that it is important to be connected and to be able to use all the new technology out there, but if it is taken to far it can negatively affect happiness and emotional development. If a child is developing social skills there needs to be a mix of face to face contact and computer skills to allow people to live in this technological age.

    I do not believe this study is conclusive, however there should be more surveys to confirm that this is true. I feel that it what they are inferring just makes sense, but that is only a matter of opinion. Generalizations from a small sample size will not allow a study such as this to be accurate and more credible results are necessary.

  19. Jannelle

    A study that was done online by just people who chose to do the study is a very poor indicator of young girls and how technology is affecting their happiness and emotional development. You cannot prove the ages of the people or even if they were female by the answers they gave or what criteria they put down. I have no confidence in this study at all and don’t believe any of the statistics that were reported in the survey. The fact that a young 13 year old girl owns a laptop, iphone, ipad and all that technology is a little disturbing to me. When I was that age going outside to play was what my siblings and I did and I’m not even old. Even now, unless I’m doing homework, I cannot see how one can spend on average 6.9 hours a day on the computer, and only 2.1 hours a day, not including classroom time, communicating with others. Do these children not communicate at all with their parents or other family members? And why is there no information about any boys in the survey? Are they suggesting that only young girls happiness and emotional development is being affected by technology?

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