My Personal Love-Hate Relationship with Technology

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by Danelle Spence

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05.17.2016

Everyone who knows me knows about my love-hate relationship with smartphones. I am very aware that we need technology in our worlds.  We need to know how to navigate technology effectively, skillfully and efficiently – it’s not going anywhere. I’m also not immune to the thrill of Google, Pinterest and enjoying the odd cat videos on YouTube. However, I also believe it has some very adverse effects on our kids.  Here is what I think has happened to us as a society, and more specifically, how technology has negatively impacted our kids:

  1. Children of all ages (especially teens)  are less present. They are often ‘anticipating’ the next incoming notification.
  2. Conversations are less fluid. Texting affords kids more time to think about exactly what they want to say. This allows more time to edit and double check, therefore hindering their competency (and practice) in real-life, spontaneous conversations.
  3. The reciprocal timing, rhythm and natural “ping-pong” of dialogue are being compromised.
  4. Phones create less self-reflection, less mindfulness and less being in the here-and-now.  All necessary entities to help reduce anxiety and stress.
  5. Teens who say they often feel ‘awkward’  in social situations, use their phones to keep their heads down and to give off the ‘perception’ they are busy.  What this really does is… keeps them awkward, isolated and lonely.
  6. There are significant increases in sleep disorders. The blue light that comes from our phones keeps Melatonin from producing. We need this hormone to sleep well. The fact that our brains are anticipatory – we subconsciously wait for that ‘ping’ to come through – keeps our brains WAY too activated.  ALL. THE. TIME.
  7. Phones encourage us to multi-task.  Which we know doesn’t work. They have neurologically proven that multitasking decreases the quality of ALL  the things we are attempting to work on at once.
  8. “Tones” are often lost through things like texting, which can lead to misinterpretations, making errors in meaning, and unnecessary conflict. Sarcasm is hard to identify via text. In a teen’s world where emotions are already hyper-aroused…communication needs to be as clear as possible. 
  9. We ALL seek more instant gratification. We can respond to any communication in a matter of minutes. We have therefore created a false sense of urgency in our worlds. With this comes a decreased frustration tolerance and increased anxiety. This is not good for any of us, as a society.  

What I Think Needs to Change….

  1. PUT THE PHONES DOWN (all of us!!).  Sit in the waiting room and strike up a conversation. Make eye contact. Say hello to someone. Make a new friend.  Learn something new. Read an article in the  <gasp> Reader’s Digest. OR …wait for it… be bored for 30 minutes?
  2. Uni-task.   Kids should study/work with their phones far far far away. Remember, their brain is anticipatory, so even though they are not looking at their phone, they are anticipating the ‘ping’. Study 1 hr, look at the phone for 15 min (if need be). Repeat.
  3. Phones/Technology should be out of rooms, at least 1-2 hrs before bed. This is good sleep etiquette to begin practicing early on.  But what??? Your phone is your alarm clock? Buy an alarm clock! You need it for music? Buy a radio! Beware of excuses here – try not buy in.
  4. Cyber relationships are not the only relationships kids should have.
  5. Monitor kids phones, Facebooks, Instagrams, etc… They need help here. NOT as punishment or to tell them how inappropriate, or wrong they are (shaming is never good) but for TEACHING purposes. They need to learn how to be appropriate on social media. Sit with them, talk with them about good communication, healthy relationships and how they may be representing themselves.   When they make mistakes (and they will), have an open, healthy dialogue about it. Once they show they can regulate this better, begin to monitor less and trust more.
  6. Parents…model all of the above for your kids.  If you are always on your phone, they will be too. If they need you, but you are face down into your phone, they will not come to you. Be available, be present. Show them they are the most important thing to you, not your device.
  7. Set healthy boundaries with your technology. Shut off, every single night. Check- in with yourself: is that email request urgent? Can it wait until the following day? Be present with family, be in the here-and-now with hobbies, relationships, and most importantly…yourself.
  8. READ THE BIG DISCONNECT by Catherine Steiner-Adair. Lots of info here to describe how technology is affecting our families and how to regulate it better.
  9. Stealing this from the above book… consider tech-free car rides, tech free suppers, tech-free SUMMERS!! Just some ideas. (Now all the adolescents reading this dislike me <sigh>. But it’s all about healthy brain development. Sorry kids!)

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About the Author

Danelle Spence

Danelle Spence is a Registered Psychologist with a passion for helping teens effectively manage emotional distress and helping their parents’ understand the complex and developing teenage brain.

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