Whew! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted because I’ve been working hard on my upcoming book. The title is now locked in with Oxford University Press. It’s Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World. I have written this book with by good friend and colleague, Dr. Jon Lasser. It’s been quite a journey! The book is about why it is important to balance screen use, why this is a challenge, and what we can do about it as parents. Let’s explore this question: Why balance screen use? In the book, we’ll explore this issue more, of course, but I’ll touch on some of the reasons in this blog.
Why Balance Screen Use?
It’s a challenge to raise healthy, happy, and successful kids, even under the best of circumstances. But that’s what we all want as parents, right? Importantly, that’s what kids want too! Since technology is now integrated into our daily lives, what part does it play? Do we even need to balance screen use?
Technology is woven into our lives in ways very different from not only our recent past, but it is completely foreign to that of our evolutionary ancestors. Moreover, technology is evolving at a rate that makes our heads spin. There is still debate on some of the specifics, but it appears that the earliest humans appeared about 2 million years ago. Our species, Homo sapiens, appeared around 300,000 years ago. But technologies evolve at a break-neck pace, leaving biological evolution in the dust. Consider that Alan Turing’s machine, called Bombe, one of the world’s first computers, was used to crack the Nazi’s secret Enigma code in World War II . In comparison, the iPhone 6 has about 4 billion times the computing power of Bombe. New apps and technologies, such as virtual reality, are coming out all of the time. We did not evolve to live in the world in which we now live. How are we as parents supposed to keep up?
The Price of Tech Overuse
One might argue, “So what? So technology is evolving rapidly. Why’s that so bad? It’s beneficial! Why balance screen use at all?” There is no argument that technology has countless benefits. These include increased connection, access to endless information and entertainment, and increased productivity. Still, often these benefits come with a cost. For instance, while social media & smartphones can help us connect with our friends and family, we are often checking out phones and distracted from our in-person connections. These connections are the source of much of our happiness. So, when our phone use interferes with our in-person relationships, we will pay a price in terms of lower life satisfaction and happiness. Similarly, GPS can help us get to where we want to go, and we have access to endless entertainment options while driving. But distracted driving is involved in the majority of auto accidents. Regarding our productivity, the mere presence of a cell phone diminishes brain power. It’s a challenge to do deep work if we are constantly checking our phones and email.
Low to moderate levels of tech use can be beneficial. However, high levels of technology use, including video games, social media, and television-viewing, are associated with a host of negative outcomes. These include depression, lower life satisfaction, diminished attention, and diminished productivity.We cannot effectively meet our hard-wired needs if we don’t learn how to balance screen use.
The Challenge to Balance Screen Use
Given that there are good reasons to balance screen use, how should we do that? The unfortunate truth is that there are no simple answers to life’s most complicated problems. Thus, raising balanced kids in this hyper-connected world is a formidable challenge. Technologies are evolving rapidly, and tech companies dearly want us, and our kids, to have our eyes and attention on their screens. So, we must get our “parenting game on” in order to effectively manage the pull of technology. So, in answer to the question of “Why Balance Screen Use?”, the answer is that our happiness and success, and that of our kids, depends (at least in part) upon doing this effectively. While there are not simple solutions to life’s challenges, the good news is that there are many effective strategies that we can use to balance screen use. I will discuss some of those in upcoming blogs. But I have several listed within Your Tech Tips. I’d like to hear from you, as I will be adding many more tips to this section.