Mindfulness & Parenting in a Tech-Addicted World
Are we equipped to handle tech well?
There's a growing concern about technology addiction among children and young people. We adults tend to react to the situation by treating people who are younger than us as problems to be solved. But the reality is that we first need to mind our own business because we ourselves are part of the society that is massively impacted by the continuous and rapid evolution of tech. If values are really caught (not taught), then we'll consequently impact children and young people if we ourselves are able to mindfully handle our own relationship with smartphones, tablets, computers...
Do we really need the stats? We just need to look around and observe how people behave and interact with tech. But here they are anyway--numbers from the US, UK and other parts of the world. (Source: Common Sense Media, American Academy of Pediatrics via CNN)
50% of teens feel addicted to their mobile
80% say they checked their phones hourly
72% say they need to respond immediately
30% of children in diapers play with mobile devices
Almost 75% of 13- to 17-year-olds have or have access to smartphones
27% of parents feel addicted to their mobile
56% of parents admit they check while driving
(According to an article by the Telegraph, research says "student 'addiction to technology' is similar to drug cravings.")
You can lose more than a decade of life because of virtual reality!
But here is a more astonishing number: 10+ years. If a person just uses the screen passively only for 2 hours a day, and her waking hours are 16 hours on average, she is spending one-eighth of her day in virtual reality, i.e., 2 out of 16 hours of 'not' life. And if in the UK, the average age a person dies is 82.3, then this same person loses more than a decade of life (or one-eighth of 82.3 years). And this even assumes that the person only uses tech 2 hours a day. What about those who engage in video games and mindless surfing between 4 and 12 hours a day? We're now talking about losing more than 2 decades here...
Key principles in dealing with technology:
1. Making tech the enemy doesn't work. Whether we like it or not, technology is here to stay. We can love it, demonise it or embrace the reality that it's a two-edged sword that has positive and negative effects on our culture. It doesn't matter. Technology is here to stay. I just don't see a way that being totally antagonistic toward it will be helpful. The invitation is to embrace that it's already a part of our life--seriously. The main question to ask is, how do we skilfully respond to it? That is where mindfulness helps. Mindfulness is about approaching the issue and letting awareness create options on how to deal with it. Mindfulness is about allowing reality to be what it is. And the reality is, we will not get un-stuck from the world of high tech.
2. Expect that tech will reinvent itself again and again. Tech will inevitably get reengineered in a ridiculous, unimaginable manner that will make our current gadgets obsolete and laughable a few years from now. Ten years ago, we didn't even think 'really smart' phones--such as what we have now--were possible. They were just science fiction until the launch of the iPhone in 2007. We didn't have the tablets or the smartwatches that we have now. So we can expect the same type of innovation in the coming years. That's what good tech companies do--they re-invent and try to get to the next level, by default.
The iPhone 7 will have its wave of impact soon and just two days ago, Apple has upgraded its OS to Sierra. OS Sierra offers picture in picture (PIP) and told me that I can watch a movie with PIP while I work. If I want to engage in this new feature, I have to be aware of its consequences. Personally, I don't want to lessen the already lower-than-a-gold-fish's attention span of the human being by dividing further my attention while at work. (read my previous article: What Tech Does to You). But for the rest of us who want to, the invitation is to bring 'choice' into the equation. New equipment, features and apps will perpetually pour over our lives. Deciding what to use, when to use and how to use--that is where the mindful choice is valuable.
3. What is constant is parenting and taking care of children: it's about love and boundaries. Tech can change all it wants but if we're able to focus on love and boundaries, we'll be alright. This is the same principle that we apply to almost everything in life--whether it's knowing who our kids' friends are, where they party or what they do when they're not around us.
This means that we can do practical stuff as being online friends with our kids so we can journey with them as they engage in social media. This means setting limits to place and time for tech. This means that selling to them the idea of human connection rather than nagging them to irritation about not communicating with us at the dinner table. This also means that we don't need to blame ourselves for not banning technology enough... because doing that is simply impossible. (If our school system promotes it and peer pressure nags them to get the latest stuff, good luck to those who want to absolutely bar kids from using them.)
What is the best time to give our kids a smart phone or a full-feature tablet? Using love and boundaries as fundamental guides, let the discussion begin...
The Happy Warrior at the Toxic Childhood Conference. Speaking on Mindfulness as a source of practical wisdom to "Master the Tech-Addicted World."
Conclusion: Bring awareness to the way you relate with tech.
Tech is brilliant, I love it! I'm a great fan of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Elon Musk. But what they give to us and how they transform the world needs to be mindfully examined and handled. We can decide to upgrade or not, follow this trend or that, or get online at this time or that. What matters most is the quality of awareness we bring to doing these things. Mindfulness coming into the picture means not going on autopilot and simply getting sucked in by a habit of buying or using. Mindfulness establishes that you're the master, not the slave.
Take charge of your relationship with tech by increasing your awareness. Check out our Mindfulness Courses.
New to Mindfulness? Check the basics here.