It satisfied her, but jarred my thinking. “We are each a product of our own life experiences, which influence our behavior,” I had said. Two recent FB posts popped into my mind about cell phone/gaming addiction in children. While I am an active user myself of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and trying to learn Pinterest, I feel increasing concern about the seductiveness of social media, gaming, and the instant Internet information glut on all of us. I know that times are different, and I don’t advocate going back, giving it up, or resisting progress, ( I admit my phone is my brain.) but I do have an “ah-ha moment,” that I must share. It came to me through this thinking process.
I am a tech-user promoter, teaching regular Digital Drop-Ins for senior adults in a Life Long Learning Center. To encourage attendees to get over their fear of the Internet and Social Media, I often compare technology advances, like smart phones, to fire. Both can be hazardous and powerful, damaging and beneficial.. The secret lies in harnessing the power and minimizing the danger.
When man first harnessed fire, the course of human evolution was changed, by extending awake time, allowing people to stay up late, gather together, and experience free time for the first time. This free time spurred ideas and inventions, that we build on today. My concern is not that we fail to harness the power of technology, but that our obsession with it is having the opposite effect on people today.
While personal devices entertain, connect and provide us with instant information, their constant use can erode our free time. Research is showing that having free time is important for relieving stress and experiencing life. It is also fertile ground for boredom, which when personally acknowledged, breeds creativity and/or self reliance in children, youth, and adults. I wonder, is our reliance on technology today a step backward for mankind, robbing us of this precious free time, a critical element of progress?
As personal devices instantly connect us in groups and to people we might not otherwise know, they interrupt face to face communications in families. Photos of families at the dinner table, each looking down at their own devices are more and more common. The allure of the phone or tablet screen to babies is undeniable, and we marvel at their digital abilities to manipulate these devices. A child’s desire to watch and play on a hand held device that overpowers the allure of TV dumbfounds us and pleases us at the same time - a reliable entertainer that can mesmerize for hours, allowing us to cook, clean, and work, work, work with little or no interruption. On the surface, it looks like a positive solution for family peace and productive days, but those trying family interactions are how our values are defined and passed down to the next generation. Besides a step backward for mankind, is this permissive technology use harming us in a more profound way?
Finally, the “ah-ha!”
I suspect that we are experiencing a major cultural shift. As we communicate with hundreds of friends and family on our devices, we are becoming more and more disconnected to our immediate loved ones, who sit in the same room, sleep in the same house, travel in the same car. Family, where core values are learned, is no longer everything. It is being replaced by digitized values: data, likes, shares, posts, tweets, messages, drops, snaps, video. We are playing with fire in this digital world.
I offer no one size fits all solution to this cultural problem, which, by the way, is not uniquely American. It is a worldwide challenge. Awareness is the first step toward a solution. Acknowledgement is step two. You are on step two. Will you move to step three?
The articles that impacted this post:
http://bit.ly/DianeKrasznay A Facebook post that went viral - relays her 10 year-old son’s reaction to giving up his cell phone during a car ride, and what she did about it.
http://bit.ly/blogofjacqueline Common sense suggestions for reclaiming your family, from Occupational Therapist, Victoria Prooday.