Technology: The New Addiction?

13/05/2014 11:04 BST | Updated 12/07/2014 10:59 BST

Technology has transformed our lives. Social media has revolutionised how we communicate. News travels faster than ever before. Shopping online is at record levels. And of course, the recent launch of Paym means that people can now transfer money using just a mobile phone.

All of this is great, right? We're more efficient and more effective as a result. It's a sign of our progress. However, do we risk going just that little bit too far?

Don't get me wrong - my iPhone is rarely out of arm's reach, and I'm still buzzing from my recent foray into Twitter. I can also see the benefits of using technology to enhance the learning experience - e-learning has revolutionised education. However, there's a dark side to this trend.

The charity, Tablets for Schools, recently surveyed over 2000 children on their views on technology and gadgets. It found that four in 10 secondary school pupils can barely function without holding on to electronic gadgets. Two thirds said they take an internet-enabled device to bed with them.

Move over drink and drugs. This is a whole new kind of addiction.

While it's encouraging to have such a tech-savvy future generation, I have to wonder what the long-term impact on young people who live online and can't 'switch off' will be.

Take social skills for example. Although it's coined 'social media,' communicating via the likes of Facebook and Twitter is lonely. People hide behind computers rather than speaking face-to-face. Not exactly ideal for the workplace where team work, public speaking and handling confrontation are core skills that employers tell us they needs, time and time again.

And who's to say what you see online is even true? As a survey of 2000 people by Pukka Pies showed, three quarters have lied or exaggerated in statuses and posts about career developments, their social life or domestic abilities. What impact will this have not only on people's view of reality, but also their confidence?

I've previously written about whether or not we'll risk losing the employment war to robots, and how we need to combine innovation, creativity, analysis and teamwork with technology. We know robots will never replace our need for companionship, community and love. So rather than hiding behind technology, perhaps we should explore how we can use it to bring people together and make connections.

This is surely why online dating has been so successful; by bringing people together using technology. In fact, 9 million people in the UK are registered with a dating website, and one in five relationships start online.

One of the concepts I've seen trialled in some colleges is the 'flipped classroom', where students watch videos and read teaching notes and lesson plans online ahead of a class or lesson. The lesson is then focused on debate, asking questions, discussing ideas. It allows people to use their initiative and learn through a more sociable (and potentially more engaging) classroom.

We can't deny that technology is a growing addiction, nor should we ignore it. But before we panic and take away young people's mobile phones, let's see how we can use technology to bring people together and create well-rounded future employees with social skills that extend far beyond social media.