The Role of Computer Technology as a Force of Social Development
High level of technological advances is a characteristic of the contemporary world. This generation cannot compare with the past generations in terms of technology and development. Technological development is evident in all aspects of contemporary living, starting from the architecture, transport and communication, among others. Most importantly is the role the computer plays in today’s technology and development. Computers continue to play a holistic role in society’s social, economic, and political spheres. Nonetheless, technology in general and especially the computer has invaded all spheres of contemporary life.
There is development in social, political, and economic spheres of the contemporary society because of the technological advances experienced today, including computer technology. Social development and social change is seen in the way the social order today has been altered (Das and Kolack 1-2). This sociocultural evolution has resulted in numerous social changes in society today, with computer technology playing a bigger role in the social interactions between different people. Social development is also evident in the social, emotional, and personal development of individuals. This includes the ability to interact and maintain healthy relationships with different people and at different levels (Das and Kolack 1-4).
Today, families, schools, offices, and other institutions own computers. These are used for different purposes, ranging from simple to complex uses (Shaffer 450). Peoples’ interaction with these computers has greatly transformed their social interactions, as the present social relationships cannot be compared to past social relationships. The role of computer technology in social development goes beyond the mere interaction between the computers and people. Instead, this focuses on how computer technology is integrated into communication networks, and how this computer-based communication and interaction has resulted in changes in the way people interact today (Shaffer 451).
Schools are homes are the most important avenues where socialization takes place. It is within these two institutions that children are introduced to their cultures, and learn to practise it. For the more grown adults and the older children, the economic institutions and many existent social networks serve as their modes of interaction and socialization (Shaffer 453). Through these modes of socialization, young children and adults get the opportunity to learn new attitudes and behaviours. Presently, information is produced commercially, making most social interactions of children in school be leisure activities and entertainment. Among people in communities, there are private interactions with computers. However, when people interact using computer networks, there is an evidence of social integration and community formation (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 123).
Computer technology has resulted in a new breed of modern humanity. This has mainly affected and changed the face-to-face mode of communication and interaction of people. The emergence and advancement of computer technology has led to the rationalization of culture. This culture rationalization has further led to the development of social relationships that are universalistic in nature (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 123). This way, people today can treat strangers with a lower level of suspicion, as compared to past social relationships, where interaction with strangers was considered risky. However, on the negative side, this kind of social development has lessened the grip of people on their social values and norms, which they share.
Different researches have shown that face-to-face form of communication is greatly diminishing due to the rampant use of computer communication networks. People in homes and offices with computer technology prefer to communicate with one another using their computers (Heap, Thomas and Einon 48). In 1984, the Diebold Group surveyed different secretaries concerning their mode of communication. Among the secretaries interviewed, 20 percent admitted to engaging in less face-to-face interactions. In addition, 22 percent of the professionals and managers interviewed reported less face-to-face interactions. (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 127). Another study in 1984 by McClinton among the mothers working from home on their computers showed that they had less social interactions with their friends, but increased interaction with their families (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 128). Therefore, computer technology has led to changes in the quality of communication between people. While it used to be face-to-face interactions, communication through computer networks is a different kind of experience altogether. Computer technology has erased the aspect of perception of sound, and vision in communication today.
The increasing number of children using computers both at home and school today has raised concerns on how computer technology contributes to the social development of children. Computer technology helps children do their school assignments as well as serving as their source of entertainment (Shaffer 452). On the negative side, this could as well be a source of violent and aggressive behaviour in children. Computer use has different effects on children, including effects on their cognitive, social, and physical development. Children who spend most of their time on computer screens are found to be at risk of obesity as compared to those who do not spend most time on their computers. On the other hand, studies have shown that children who play computer games more often develop their computer literacy skills, as the video games help them visualize images in 3-D space and observe different images at a go. This therefore, to a considerable degree increases the children’s academic performance (Shaffer 454).
Children and adolescents’ social development to a larger extent has been negatively influenced by computer technology. Computer games, apart from their benefits on children’s social development, also influences the children’s social development negatively. These games sometimes have an adverse impact on children’s interactions with their friends and families. Recent studies have also shown that internet and its increased use today is the major cause of loneliness, isolation, and depression that people face in their social lives (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 123). Violent computer games are responsible for the development of aggressive, unfriendly, and violent behaviour in children. In addition, children exposed to a prolonged use of computer tend to find it hard to differentiate between the real and the virtual world. The electronic friendships developed by teenagers with their peers, instead of real friendships might make them not gain the necessary interpersonal skills they need. Computers and computer technology has robbed children and most people of their time for other social activities and real life interactions (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 124).
Computer technology has made information to be available and easily accessible to all people with access to internet. This information is vital in the society at different levels, including the personal level, group level, or in schools, companies and big corporations, especially for marketing purposes, which is social shaping (Heap, Thomas and Einon 48). However, the ease at which this information is accessed raises concerns at the rate at which teenagers get access to violent and other inappropriate sexual information. This changes the teenagers’ behaviour, as they become inclined to sexual immorality and to acts of violence. For instance, in 1999, some Columbine students performed a massacre owing to the bomb development information they had acquired on the internet (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 123).
Similarly, the practice of “cybersex” perpetuated by computer technology today raises many concerns on the role of computer technology in social development. Materials of sexual nature are available on computers today, exposing teenagers to negative influence. However, this may result in increased sexual activity among the teenagers, or may encourage better sexual decision making, because of the web based message boards and discussions where teenagers contribute their opinions on sex (Subrahmanyan, Kraut, Greenfield, and Gross 125).
Conclusively, computer technology has brought radical changes in the social set up of the contemporary world. Computer use is prevalent in different parameters of the society, and is therefore deeply rooted in society. The various uses of computers affect interactions of people in society either in a positive or negative way. The main social development brought by computer technology is in communication changes. Introduction of computer communication networks, which are highly utilized, has resulted in development of more electronic social interactions and communication, which are more efficient. Computer technology in society has both advantages and disadvantages; therefore, more research should be conducted in this area so that only positive effects of computer technology are maximized while the negative effects are minimized to ensure a healthy social development in society.
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Heap, Nick, Thomas, Ray and Einon, Geoff. Information Technology and Society: A Reader.
London: Sage, 1995. Print.
Shaffer, David. Social and Personality Development. New York: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.
Subrahmanyan, Kaveri, Kraut, Robert, Greenfield, Patricia and Gross, Elisheva. The Impact of
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