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Are we past the point of no return?

September 8, 2013
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

Technology can be a great thing.

It's made great things possible in today's world, whether it be new medical procedures, better access to information and communication, new types of entertainment.

It has brought our society to places we probably never thought possible even 20 years ago.

But, I also wonder sometimes if we might have embraced these advances too much as part of our daily lives.

This newspaper, for example, would be impossible to get out today without our electronic technology.

Most businesses would be unable to perform, in fact.

Children today know more about electronics and are exposed to more technology than any other previous generation. By the time they enter school, if they don't know how to use a computer, tablet device or cell phone, they seem to be behind the eight ball when it comes to being a part of society.

I often wonder if today's kids would even be able to live without access to some of these forms of technology.

Are they still being taught how to write with pencil and paper? Will they even know what paper is in, say, another 10 years? Will they remember the joys of reading a book? An actual book, not just seeing the words on a tablet screen where "turning the page" is actually pushing a button or sliding your finger.

Will they ever play board games on a weekend with family or friends?

To me, I think it would do everyone some good to take a day or two to just get away from it all.

Drive out to a state park or rent a cabin by a lake somewhere. It doesn't have to be far, but the point is to limit the exposure to the electronics.

While it's nice to be able to reach down to your belt and call someone at any time, or go online to check the world's news, at some point we need to remember that it doesn't control how we live our lives and that there is something else out there.

It's probably not something we can do for the rest of our lives, but at the same time, there are others out there who are trying to turn back the digital clock by at least a few minutes.

Last week, I was reading about a college which actually limits the amount of technology available to its students.

They can use computers for their class assignments, for example, but the Internet access is limited to select websites available for research.

They are only allowed to use their cell phones during emergency situations or if they are going off-campus. Otherwise, the phones are kept in a secured box which is locked in the dorm office.

The college does this to cut down on possible distractions in the hope students will actually focus on their education instead of worrying about their electronics.

It's, of course, an expanded version of programs such as Brooke County's decision to require students to keep their cell phones in their lockers during the school day.

School is supposed to be about learning, and while some technology can assist in that process, other types can prevent it.

I've always been a big fan of taking time to "unplug" from some of our modern conveniences.

Maybe it's just the former Boy Scout in me or the fact that, while I am by no means an old man, we simply did not have many of these devices while I was growing up.

There were no mobile phones, home video game consoles were still in their infancy, as were home computers, few outside of the government knew what the Internet was.

I can remember one year during Scout camp, as part of a requirement for one of my merit badges, I was told to go out and find a secluded spot and just sit there, by myself, for 20 to 30 minutes. All I was allowed to take with me was some paper and a pencil to record my observations.

It was nice. It's amazing how much of our world you notice when we actually take the time to stop and look around and what is actually going on around us instead of having having our faces pointed down at a screen.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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