Addicted to Tech?


attentiondistraction-heroCommon Sense released a new report today titled ” Technology Addiction; Concern, Controversy, and Finding Balance.” Here is a link to the findings online. The upshot of the research roundup is this: media use is causing stress in most families, and while most of us are not technically “addicted” to tech, we are in a period of imbalance from overuse. Being smitten with our devices is a condition that affects children and adults alike, and because there isn’t solid research about how all this tech affects our kids, we as parents must do what we can to engage our families in conversation about our usage, and do our best to model good behavior.

Here are the Key Findings *

  1. Internet addiction is potentially serious and needs clarification and additional study for people to understand the impact on children’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.
  2. Our digital lifestyles, which include frequent multitasking, may be harming our ability to remain focused.
  3. Media and technology use is a source of tension for many families.
  4. Problematic media use may be related to lower empathy and social well-being.
  5. Technology may facilitate new ways of expressing typical adolescent developmental needs, such as the need for connection and validation from peer groups.
  6. Embracing a balanced approach to media and technology, and supporting adult role-modeling, is recommended to prevent problematic media use.

*Felt, L. J. & Robb, M. B. (2016) 

Here’s what you can do to help this in your own home:  take the time to have positive non-judgemental conversations around everyone’s media use. Don’t forget to look in the mirror, and be sure to involve your spouse or significant other — we adults are as smitten as our kids!  MIT professor and best-selling author Sherry Turkle has a new book about the positive role that face-to-face conversation has on building empathy in your kids – a quality which is thought to be waning, but that is key to success in work and life. Her book “Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age” is a wonderful resource if you want to read more on the topic. Empathy is a huge topic of concern today, for child psychologists and educators, and Turkle’s makes a strong case for maintaining tech-free, or “sacred spaces,” in the home, bedroom, and car.

The other big takeaway for parents heading into middle and high school is strong research suggesting that multi-tasking is really not the path to productive work.  Kids think they can do homework while also participating in social media, and it’s been proven repeatedly that deep learning only comes from “mono-tasking”. We are all actually more distracted when doing several things at once, and aren’t as productive as we think – kids need to learn this early on, and it’s a lesson that you’ll likely have to teach again and again.  This recent article from the New York Times heralds single-tasking as a desirable new quality  — what’s old is new again, and teaching this simple habit to your kids will go a long way to their well-being and success.