It's incredibly frustrating to constantly hear adults saying things like, "Technology is making kids stupid." Are there kids that may be better off spending less time on phones and TV? Sure, but the same could be said for adults. Modern-day youth are far from “dumb” because of technology. If anything, technology expands young people’s intellectual capacities and increases their potential to do amazing things. So, I took personal offense when I found out that critics like Mark Bauerlein, who wrote “The Dumbest Generation,” argue that “the advantages [of more technology] don’t show up in intellectual outcomes,” and the “mental equipment” of younger generations is sorely lacking.
First of all, the actual definition of the word “intelligence” depends on the context and a variety of other factors. Bauerlein seems to focus on the fact that young people know comparatively “less” than previous generations. As journalist Sharon Begley points out, Bauerlein does have a point in terms of intelligence defined as “holding the most knowledge.”
However, I dislike this idea that one person may be more intelligent than another simply because they know all 44 presidents or can name the capitals of all 196 countries. That may have been relevant when Bauerlein was younger, but my generation shouldn't need to spend effort memorizing trivial information like the aforementioned if it's a Google search away. Instead, young people are exploring their own unique brands of intelligence.
Another thing people complain about all the time is video games. From a productivity standpoint, I completely understand. Yet most critics of video games seem to be influenced by the “cliché that [video games] are about improving hand-eye coordination and firing virtual weapons." As is true of many stereotypes, these supposed traits of are only representative of a small number of video games. As science author Steven Johnson says, “the majority of video games on the best-seller list contain no more bloodshed than a game of Risk.” The most popular games challenge mental dexterity just as much as, if not more so than, they challenge manual dexterity. This, and the fact that most players choose to “feel their way” through a game rather than reading a manual or walk-through, contribute to the increasing reliance of video games on what Johnson calls “competence principle.” Video games do not make young people stupid. In fact, modern video games rely on the aforementioned competence principle in order to add depth, complexity, and value to the gaming experience. The most highly rated games are far from what anyone would call ‘simple.’
“Minecraft,” for example, is a popular adventure game that initially puts a player in an outdoor environment. Its simplistic graphics belie its true nature. Players must be constantly aware of their surroundings, adaptable to sudden changes in the environment and willing to take risks and explore if they want their character to survive. More experienced players have typically learned to plan accordingly for the future, and apply real-world principles and techniques such as physics, architecture and coding to create complex environments. This is the competence principle in its purest form. Players can’t get involved or invested in a game that can be completed in less than five minutes, so video games require an increasing degree of competence and adaptive mental capacity in order for a player to be successful.
People who call out technology as idiot-inducing ignore the fact that tech is a toy and a tool. My biotechnology class at Paulding County High School is a perfect example of this. As the name of the course may suggest, student research and experiments in the class are dependent on technology. Students who take the course must understand to some degree the complex processes that their tools undergo. With this technology, students isolate genes in microscopic animals, study mutations in C. elegans, observe yeast’s effects on various saccharides and map out the genome for E. coli. Between hunting for water bears and collecting data from bird boxes, the class is definitely a blast. Students enjoy what they’re doing. With this technology, students revolutionize the world of science at their school, and develop the potential to change the lives of millions of people.
Technology isn’t dampening the intelligence of younger people; it’s enhancing them. Yes, the degree of straight up memorization is not as high as that of previous generations, but that’s only because technology has made it so that young people can spend mental effort on more important things. Yes, video games can change how a young person thinks, but more often than not, it’s for the better and with skills that are nothing but valuable. And yes, a good portion of today's youth could afford to spend less time on their phone and more time outside, but honestly? The modern young generation’s access to technology is critical if the world is ever to continue to grow and expand in new ways. Older generations tend to be uninformed about the “latest tech,” but young people are more connected and involved with technology than anyone in the past has ever seen.