Is it Better to Limit Computer Time During College?

Is it Better to Limit Computer Time During College?

Mike Tyson
Oct 4, 2010

Nowadays, computers are a ubiquitous fact of life on college campuses. Whether you use it for research, social networking, job hunting, gaming, movies, music, etc… it is clear that the demand is high for a powerful machine. Here at Unplggd we have a clear sense of this demand and constantly make suggestions for the perfect computer purchase.
But once you have the perfect computer, should you be regulating your exposure to it? A recent New York Times Op-Ed piece says so.

Christine Smallwood suggests taking "a few Internet-free hours each day, with your phone turned off." She believes creating a strict schedule for yourself will force you to move away from the tech and into a book or other similar pastimes that would be more beneficial (assumedly) than your time spent on the computer. An additional benefit, Smallwood mentions, is the mysterious persona you'll create for yourself when you become increasingly unreachable or inattentive to online networking (such as Facebook). A second point she makes is to leave the laptop at home during class. In its place, she suggests handwriting notes so you're more tuned into the company of your peers and professors.

We can partially agree with this sentiment. To suggest that kids should delineate no-computing hours is a bit arbitrary. It's entirely true that some kids might need that strict schedule to keep them inline (and offline, har har), but isn't college all about learning discipline and self-regulation? An alternative route could be to use the computer as much as you see fit. Don't arbitrarily decide that the time as come to shut the laptop and move on to cleaning the dishes or reading a book. Use the laptop until you're through and move on to another task after. Teach yourself discipline through standard practice rather than force it onto yourself. Sometimes the laptop can be highly beneficial and some days might require you to use it more than your "allotted" time. Decide what is necessary usage for yourself on a case-by-case basis rather than make blanket rules that might be detrimental to you in the end.

On the second note, we have to agree (with a stipulation). Unless you truly take notes better on a computer (because your handwriting is completely illegible, etc…), it is better to leave the distractions at home and to engage yourself with the class. Making eye contact with professors as much as possible, answering questions, and responding to peers are all great ways not only to improve your grade, but take more from your education in general. You have an incredible opportunity to participate in higher education and you should do everything possible not to detract from that. Finally, we must admit we understand her last reason for leaving the computer at home, simply because "you have the rest of your life to hide behind a screen during meetings."

Does this information ring true for anyone else? Are you in college or recently out? How did computing affect your performance? Did it largely enhance or detract from your schooling experience and do you have any more tips for current scholars?

[Header image: John F Hark, 2nd image: Kyle Sorkness, 3rd image: Bill S via the Creative Commons license.]

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