The year 2017 has been the pinnacle of our ambiguous relationship with technology. On the one hand, the world embraced the arrival of newer, faster, better gadgets and on the other, there has never been so much concern - as a result of much research - about the consequences of our addiction to technology.
Super-connected kids become disconnected
One of the main areas of worry is how technology is adversely affecting our children and teenagers. For better or for worse, technology is part of their lives and there is no going back. They are after all the "iGen" - the generation that has only known the world with internet and social media - dubbed so by Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University. The title of her book published in 2017 gives away the dilemma that prevails: "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us?" Our technology-super-connected kids have disconnected from social and emotional norms so much that they don't even want to hang out with each other unless it's virtual! Can we wean them off - and ourselves whilst we are at it - just enough so that we can move forward with technology but not at the detriment of our health? It will require considerable balancing skills.
And what happened to our family time?
Arianna Huffington wrote recently in her piece The Great Awakening: "Our addiction to our phones is also eating away at the fabric of our family lives." A major problem within the family unit is that parents spend even more time on screens (between eight to ten hours on average per day) either work related or personal. Technology is intrinsic to most work requiring 24/7 availability, writing emails, sending messages etc. So, the adults' excuse for spending time on tech devices is "but I'm working". No wonder we make poor role models for our kids! How can we preach about the health hazards of screen over-use and tell them "when I was your age, I was outdoors all day playing, discovering, inventing..." ? And yet, there we are surfing the net and giving thumbs up on Facebook in between PowerPoint presentations and a gazillion work related emails.
And then there are those of us who spend time on devices writing about the detrimental effects of spending time on devices!!!
The tech world is moving at a very fast pace. The idea is not to be left behind feeling like cavemen but to lead our lives mindful of our human needs and well being. We are the inventors of technology so why should we follow it mindlessly? Somehow we have to find a way to embrace technology and set firm boundaries to protect our physical, mental, emotional health and our precious family time. Disconnecting from technology in order to reconnect with family should be the prerogative for all of us and there are countless ways of doing that. Here are a few:
Put away: Put devices in a away at meal times (or at least not on the table)
Switch off: switch to silent when eating a family meal so the alerts and pings do not disturb - even if the device is in a separate room
Clock off: set the alarm clock on the device you/ your child is using to stop after a set time (no more than 1 hour )
Log off: physically turn all devices off at least one hour before bed-time
Tech-free breaks: set aside an hour, an evening, a week end or even an entire holiday completely tech-free. Plan some fun activities with your family (games, discussions, a walk in the park or just sitting together)
Connecting with our families is worth disconnecting from our devices. Get everyone in the family involved in planning tech-free time!