This week's post comes from Pat McAndrew, Founder of The Low Tech Trek. In addition to being an all around top-notch human, he uses his theater experience, speaking, and coaching to help organizations build meaningful relationships so that their employees are present despite digital distractions. Here's his take on why digital wellness isn't something only young people need to manage:
Monkey See, Monkey Do: Why We Should Be Just As Concerned With Adults As We Are With Kids
The “Digitally Well” Craze
“Digital Well-being” and “Digital Wellness” are two terms that have been thrown around a lot in the past year or so. There is a growing movement to encourage the general population to exercise positive, digital habits, as research has shown a direct correlation between smartphone and social media usage with anxiety and depression.
Large companies like Apple and Google have jumped on this opportunity. There are now a variety of apps available that allow users to track or limit the amount of time they are spending on specific apps or on their phones in general. The objective is for these users, who would otherwise spend a large amount of time glued to their phones, to have more time for more productive means.
I do believe that the creation of these types of apps is the next logical move as we progress towards a more technologically advanced world. Unfortunately, Apple and Google are monopolizing the opportunity, spiraling other app developers out of business who originally created similar apps to do the same things. It’s important to look at, however, who are using these “limiting” apps and if they are truly serving their purpose.
Studies show that limiting children’s screen time improves their cognition. There are many studies out there revealing this and it’s no surprise that this is where the attention is at. Parents are deeply concerned with how often their children and teens are on their screens. They want to implement a system which will limit the time their kids are on social media or playing games or any of the other distractions that can soak up their time. These screen-limiting apps can be saviors to those parents, who are able to implement these apps on the phones and save themselves the headache of barking at their kids.
But what about the parents themselves? We seem to be so focused on the kids growing up with this technology that we often neglect the adults. While it is important to address the issue of kids being attached to their devices, we must take the adults into consideration as well.
Adults are losing the capacity to fully engage with their peers. We don’t communicate in the ways in which we should. We favor texting and emails over walking to the person’s office to ask a question. We don’t know how to confront difficult conversations in the workplace. We are losing the confidence to put ourselves out there and take risks by retreating behind the safety of our phones.
Yes, we certainly need to address this concern with children, but we mustn’t do so at the expense of the adults. For as long as human beings have been on this Earth, adults have always served as role models to children. What kind of message are we sending if we tell our kids to get off their devices and then spend our entire evenings answering emails. It doesn’t make sense and the kids will know it doesn’t make sense.
Establishing New Norms
Our society has become so attached to our smartphones because that is what society has adopted as the social norm. “He’s on his phone and she’s on her phone, so I might as well be on my phone,” is a common mantra while in public, at dinner, or even just relaxing at home. We need to start being advocates for change by altering our social behavior on a regular basis, and this starts with the adults. Taking your phone out may not seem like a big deal at the time, but it forms a habit. As Jim Rohn once said, “First we form habits. Then they form us.” Do we really want to look back and realize how much time we wasted looking down at our phones while there was a whole world in front of us?
Thomas, Naomi. “Study: Limiting Children’s Screen Time Linked to Better Cognition.” CNN. Accessed October 26, 2018. https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/26/health/screen-time-cognition-study/index.html.