What Aren’t You Doing When You’re On The Computer?

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One of the questions we need to ask about young people’s technology use is about what they aren’t doing when they’re in front of the computer. And one thing they aren’t doing is engaging in physical activity, as this new study (reported on PsychCentral) suggests:

“A new UK study finds that time spent on social networking sites comes at the expense of other activities.

University of Ulster researchers performed an online survey of 350 students to measure social networking activity and levels of physical activity.

The results showed that the vast majority of students use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and spend an average of one hour a day online.

In the physical activity questionnaire, just over half the students were classified as ‘moderately active’ and a third were high activity,’ with a minority (12.7 percent) falling into the ‘low physical activity’ group. One-quarter of the respondents said they took part in team sports.

Analysis of the results confirmed that the amount of time spent on social network websites was negatively correlated with the respondents’ level of physical activity in the previous week.

Facebook fans were also less likely to take part in team sports, but this effect was less pronounced.

‘Time is a finite resource, so time spent in social networking must come at the expense of other activities,’ said researcher Wendy Cousins, Ph.D. ‘Our study suggests that physical activity may be one of those activities.’” Read more here.

“Time is a finite resource”—that’s true for all of us, and worth remembering when we talk about technology use. The question should be not only “Is technology use good or bad?”, but “Is technology use better or worse than other ways I could be spending my time?” This is an especially important question to ask because technology use (and here I mean playing games, answering email, surfing the web, checking email and Facebook) is so seductively easy and comfortable and appealing, while some of the other things we might be doing (exercising, relating face to face with people) are more challenging—but, perhaps, ultimately more rewarding.

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