We are living in an always on, always connected Overwired world. It is changing what we do, how we parent, and how happy we are. Without a doubt, children are being exposed at earlier and earlier ages to technology. As technology becomes increasingly more common, and new games, apps and devices are coming out daily that are targeting younger and younger users, many parents are wondering how much is too much.
The rapid speed of change means that it is nearly impossible to fully understand the impact on our children. Many parents are asking – when does technology transition from being educational into being an electronic babysitter?
I know that my upbringing was unique. My parents would pay extra to special order cars that had no radio or tape player. My father believed this promotedmore lively family conversations. Every summer we would completely unwired, spending weeks running barefoot through the woods of New Hampshire, catching fireflies and learning to self entertain. The first few days were tough – we missed friends, telephone conversations and tv. And the summertimes were precious opportunities to connect with ourselves and with our family.
Now that technology is so prevalent, unplugging is much harder. To help parents navigate this change – we offer three guiding questions.
1 – Why is your child using a device?
All too often we default to the path of least resistance. Take a moment to reflect on what need is the technology meeting – for you? For your child? Is it entertainment, distraction, education, to avoid boredom, to promote better behavior?
2 – What activities is technology replacing?
By saying yes to one activity, we are inherently saying no to another. What would your child be doing if there were no Ipads, gameboys, computers or television.Would they be reading a book (cover to cover, rather than skimming the web)? Would they be playing outsideand being physically active? Would they be making friends with neighbors? Would they be learning through interactions?
3 – What age-appropriate skills does your child need?
Technology has the attraction of a shiny penny. There are new, interesting distractions at every twist and turn. Technology can teach us and it can draw us away from the here and the now; away from developing many critical, albeit abstract skills. We all need time to be alone, to experience solitude, to learn to self sooth and self entertain.
If you find your self troubled by your answers to the questions above, perhaps it is time to look in the mirror. The apple doesn’t fall from the tree. If you want to know what you value – look at your credit card statements, check your calendar or ask your kids.
Take a moment to reflect.
1 – When and why are you using technology?
Do you need to be connected and available 24/7? What do you get from being always on? What does it cost you? How often are you at choice?
2 – What activities is technology replacing for you?
Given the way technology has infiltrated our lives, what activities have been displaced by your technology? Are you plugged into your ipodduring your workout rather than connecting with a friend? Are you on calls during your commutes – missing the opportunity to unwind from work and be fully prepared to connect with your kids when you get home?
3 – What do you need?
We can get so consumed in the doing of life that we have two speeds: Doing, doing, doing and Done. All too often, we are overly focused on hitting back emails that we overlook what matters most. Today – I urge you to find time to step away from your technology. Today take a few minutes:
- to reconnect with what matters most to you;
- to think about all that you are grateful for within your life; and
- to identify two things you can do today that will reenergize and renew you.
When we unplug from the world around us and we give ourselves permission to reconnect with what matters most, we make better choices, we feel better, and we are better parents.
Bio: CAMILLE PRESTON, PH.D.,PCC,is founder and CEO of AIM Leadership, an organizational development company committed to fostering powerful, authentic leaders. As a psychologist, executive coach, writer, facilitator and public speaker, she guides companies and individuals to reach new heights of leadership, performance, efficiency, happiness and fulfillment.