Recently, school counselor Melissa Gossard spoke to some of our parents about how to handle technology in our homes. This three-part blog series aims to summarize the conversation that was started that evening. Each segment will include a portion of the topics covered as well as useful tips and hints that can be used to help you manage technology in your home. We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with you in the goal of raising young people who know how to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty.
Screens, time limits, gaming, YouTube, social media, Fortnight……if you have children, then at least some of these words are probably part of your everyday vocabulary. And if you’re like most parents, you feel lost and overwhelmed trying to figure out how to handle the blessing and burden that is modern technology. As educators and parents ourselves, we are continually assessing and evaluating the influence of technology in the lives of our students and children. We have come to recognize there is often a void of conversation, connection and openness about how to handle these challenges. Many of us hesitate to talk about how to handle technology, because nearly all of us feel like we are failing or at least not doing as well as we should be. It is our desire here at Cair Paravel to begin a discussion, one that is on-going and open, about how to navigate our tech-saturated culture and how to raise children that recognize technology as a tool that they can master and use for good, rather than be mastered by it. We want this to be a conversation based in truth and grace, one where we can have differing opinions and honest dialogue because we are all doing the best we can and just hoping and praying we get it right.
It is not news to any of us that we, as a society, have become more fractured and factious, lonelier and more disconnected, than perhaps ever before. What’s most startling is how this is affecting our young people. Despite being the most “connected” generation in history, our children and teens are being called the loneliest generation in American history. Depression, anxiety, and sleep deprivation are all on the rise. Suicide in teens has increased significantly in recent years. We have even noticed these trends in schools and neighborhoods here in Shawnee County. Researchers link these dramatic and often frightening increases to the pervasive presence of social media and the “always on” nature of our technology use.
The Brain in the Balance
The effect of technology on the brain is an area of research that is fairly new but growing rapidly. Parents, educators, childcare providers, medical professionals, and nearly anyone that works with children are noticing a change in the ability of our young people to focus and concentrate for any length of time. Science is showing that many of these focus and concentration struggles are increasing due to the hyper-stimulation of the brain brought on by the overuse of screens. Games, social media, videos, and other forms of digital entertainment provide a dopamine release in the brain. This causes the brain to experience a pleasurable sensation and to crave the experience again. Whether it’s the thrill of video games, “likes” on social media, or even the mundane ping of a phone notification, our brains are being trained to need and enjoy the on-going feedback provided by technology.
The on-going desire for the dopamine rush provided by technology is contributing to our children’s’ reduced ability to focus and concentrate. Real life simply doesn’t provide the exciting feedback that technology can and does. Sitting for prolonged periods to read a book or persevere through math drills could be challenging even in the days before the always-on technology. This difficulty has only intensified with our round the clock access.
In the next part of our series, we will look at ways to lead our children through the challenges of technology management.
Tech Management Tips
- Teach phone etiquette: how to thoughtfully and politely communicate on the phone, and when to put the phone down and be present with those around you.
- Make eye contact with your kids. Whether in the rear view mirror of the car or across the table at breakfast, help your children become comfortable with having and maintaining eye contact during conversations.
- Consider a “no phones” rule at the dinner table. Make it a game: everyone puts their phone face down in the center of the table. The first one to pick their phone up does the dishes!
- Use technology for fun as a family. Play games together online. Challenge each other with quizzes or trivia. Look up jokes to share or find funny videos to watch together online.
- Talk to other parents about how they are handling technology and be open to new ideas. Accept that we all do it differently and that we are all trying our best. Ask yourself and your spouse why you have the rules you do (or don’t).