Youth Forward scholarship summer 2016 – Technology and Depression

Name: John Ballard
From: Louisville, KY
Grade: high school senior 2016-2017
School: Eastern High School
Votes: 0

Technology and
Depression John Ballard

Volunteering with both the elderly and the very young has given me a
unique understanding of how changes in technology can bring
multi-generational families closer together. I have also seen how use
of technology can lead to isolation between generations, which can
quickly lead to serious depression. Only through concentrated efforts
and commitment on the part of more than one generation can this be

For several years an elderly family friend lived at a nearby
assisted-living community. The facility provided computers and
printers in the library and free wifi throughout the building. Most
of the residents had tablets or laptops they had received as gifts
from family members, but had no idea how to use them. Simply by
helping residents set up email, Facebook, and Skype accounts I was
able to put them back in touch with friends and family around the
world. It was incredibly rewarding. They were able to interact with
grandchildren and great-grandchildren and see many more
pictures than would have been mailed to them.

I am currently spending time with a disabled grandmother at her
daughter’s house weekly, babysitting her grandsons, ages eighteen
months and four months. The grandmother, a former nurse, enjoys
teaching me about developmental milestones, safe baby-bathing
(YIKES!), and how to keep a toddler from eating the dog’s supper
instead of his own. The mom and dad get a much-deserved night out to
run errands and eat a meal by themselves, and the grandmother gets
some special bonding time with the boys. The toddler can work his
grandmother’s smart phone much quicker than she can, and always
finds the TV remote before me. I am amazed every week by the boys’
growing knowledge of the world around them and their ability to
communicate. There are always videos and pictures to look at of
aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins around the country, so no
one is a stranger when they visit. They get books read to them and
songs sung to them by their nearby grandmother and far-away

I’ve been lucky enough to know all my grandparents well, and to
have all but one still living. I even have one great-grandmother
living, but she lives across the country and does not see or hear
well enough for most communication, and I know that does make her
feel isolated and depressed. I hope someday technology can develop a
way for people like her to communicate with those they love– to
share their stories and their wisdom. I hope my children will
be able to interact on a day-to-day basis with all their relatives. I
want to be able to talk to my nieces and nephews in Texas if they are
ever bullied, and tell them how I overcame it. I always want to be no
more than a click away from my mother if she’s depressed. Advances
in technology should bring people closer, not isolate them.

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