OPINION: Technology takes away best of us, creativity takes a hit

(Illustration by Savannah Thaemert | The Collegian)

With the days of Barbie and Matchbox cars apparently in our past, it seems as though young adults are faced with the task of finding other, more “adult,” creative outlets.

For grade school students, however, the need for creative outlets is still out there – just not in the Barbie-friendly world we all grew up in.

In 2015, sales were in a slump for Barbie Dolls, as they were for Fisher-Price, according to John Kell’s Fortune article, “Mattel’s Barbie sales down for a third consecutive year.”

Why is this happening? Why are toy sales down?

Barbie’s demographic is narrowing. What used to be a popular creative outlet and time-monopolizing pastime for ages 3-9 is now only cool for ages 3-6, Jim Silver, editor-in-chief of the toy-focused website TTPM.com, said in an interview with Kell.

“Kids grow up much faster than they used to, and they move on faster,” Silver said in the interview.

The next question we have to ask ourselves in this situation is: why are children growing up faster now? What has changed in the last 20 years?

Technology has changed the way we do everything, from the way we sleep at night with our FitBit tracking our REM, to the way we learn through online classes.

It is no longer necessary to leave the comfort of your couch to order a pizza, buy new clothes or take a three-credit-hour course. And if you get bored, just download the newest app and play it for a while. Want to watch a movie? Log into Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

Jim Taylor, Ph.D., in his Psychology Today article, “How technology is changing the way children think and focus,” explained the correlation between technology and attention.

Attention is the gateway to thinking, Taylor said.

“In generations past, for example, children directed considerable amounts of their time to reading, an activity that offered few distractions and required intense and sustained attention, imagination and memory,” Taylor said. “The advent of the (TV) altered that attention by offering children visual stimuli, fragmented attention and little need for imagination.”

Slowly, creativity is becoming less important to children because what would have been created by the imagination is already on the screen in front of them.

The invention of the internet has put children in a different environment where distraction is normal and there is no need for consistent attention. With the internet, imagination is unnecessary and to top it off, memory is inhibited, according to Taylor.

By allowing children to play on iPads and tablets all the time, parents are inhibiting their imagination, attention span and memory.

It doesn’t stop there. We are grateful for social media, but it does hinder us significantly by reducing our creativity.

Trends on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter influence their users to post what is cool and in style. These trends take away the individual creativity social media sites are meant to exhibit.

For the intensely creative people out there, social media can distract designers from the real creative process by thrusting the need to review others’ shares and artwork, thus reducing the need, time and effort required to start their own project, according to Rafiq Elmansy in his Designorate article, “How Social Media Affects Your Creativity.”

What is difficult in our world, specifically with our generation, is that technology is everywhere, we can’t get away from it. We can, however, take steps to stop letting it take control of us.

For children, we need to realize that we are in control of how much technology they are exposed to directly. So, parents, instead of buying a new app for your kids, you should try a day without technology. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn about each other.