Is Addiction to Tech Stifling Teens’ Creativity?

Have you found yourself marveling at how teens can produce videos and images with filters and effects at hyper-speed just with their smartphones? Tech has given this generation of teens an incredible suite of creative tools at their fingertips and they appear to have a genetic ability to learn how to use them with impressive ease. They’re leading the way when it comes to visual communication and creating a whole new aesthetic. But what is tech doing to their creative writing and thinking skills?

This video clip is from two contributors to Swipe Left For Addiction. Laura has been an English teacher in the UK for 13 years. In recent years she has seen a decline in creative writing skills and she suspects smartphones and mobile devices may have something to do with it.

“If you never look outside the window and just sit and daydream and soak up the world around you, you can’t imagine the things to describe in a story or a poem. If you’ve never just sat around and let your imagination wander you can’t come up with narratives, come up with story lines, come up with ideas. The imagination has become stilted just from momentary flicks through images and ideas on social media, not allowing minds to really expand and think and to imagine and daydream”. Laura Fox

I was picking up a hire car recently and at the counter they were running an ad campaign with the strap line “Why play I Spy when you can have WiFi?”. May be Avis’s ad execs are not giving enough credit to I Spy? Encouraging your children to stare out of the window and absorb the world around them might just happen to be one of the most precious gifts you could give them.

While Laura is at the coal face and seeing with her own eyes how students are changing, our other interviewee, Jonny Tooze, runs a cutting edge digital agency. His agency, Lab, blends neuromarketing, psychology and behavioural economics, so he gets to see what is going on behind the scenes in this tech revolution. He has turned off all his notifications on his phone.

“To have 15 conversations going on in your pocket at the same time can’t be good for human beings. Having that constant distraction means you’re not really thinking about other things in life.” Jonny Tooze

We can only surmise as to what this shift in creative writing and thinking skills might have on society as today’s teens grow older, but on a recent trip to Silicon Valley I came across the “analogue kids” trend: parents who are purposefully bringing their children up without screens as they see it as a competitive advantage. These parents are the very people designing the tech we are all using which begs the question: why are they taking screens away from their kids? There are also plenty of Silicon Valley parents who see nothing wrong with letting their kids be on screens all day, who see it is as skill enhancing and, in general, a positive learning tool. As with most things in life, there’s probably an optimal middle ground somewhere, but with tech advancements moving so fast it’s no wonder parents are feeling somewhat bemused.

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