Every day we are learning more about the negative impacts of screen time and digital devices on our children. Common Sense Media, the leading advocacy organization for kids in the digital age, and the Center for Humane Technology, an organization of tech insiders committed to realigning technology with humanity's best interests, announced last week a new campaign to protect young minds from the potential of digital manipulation and addiction. The campaign, called Truth About Tech, will put pressure on the tech industry to make its products less intrusive and less addictive.
During their conference streamed live earlier this month, various speakers discussed the impact of tech on our children’s brains, the role of policy and tech ethics, and solutions for families, schools, and society at large.
As a parent, I’ve seen this overarching technology issue building, at first little by little, and now by leaps and bounds. My son was born the year the first iPhone came out. It was clear early on that there was a strange draw to this little glowing screen that reacts to every touch it receives. The ability of a child to manipulate and navigate this tool so quickly is as amazing as it is scary. At first it appeared to be an educational tool, but it quickly became a type of stimulant.
As time went out, and our son got older, we began hearing stories of the problems kids were having that resulted from this technology. Some were scary, some were disturbing, some were inappropriate, and some were mind-numbing.
It was two years ago that a friend of mine and I decided to add education on responsible usage of digital devices to the list of required parent/child talks (like safe sex, drugs, driving, etc.). Let’s face it. The short and long-term implications and potential side effects and dangers are just as great, if not greater.
So we created Off The Grid. It’s a box that everyone in the family puts their phones in. (Goal one accomplished: create more family time.) Then you take the cards out included in the box, which have questions to prompt conversation about social media, online safety and phone etiquette, as well as other topics just for fun. (Goal two accomplished: talk as a family about what you think is appropriate or inappropriate, safe or reckless, responsible or irresponsible smartphone or online behavior).
Because parents and kids are growing up together with this technology, it’s imperative to work as a family to set guidelines for safe and responsible tech use. We have to remember that our kids, unlike us, don’t have years of experience of just living to access in order to make smart decisions. They are making bad and sometimes unsafe mistakes in a very public way, that they can’t take back or forget about.
Let’s teach them from our own experiences of just growing up, combined with our knowledge of how best to navigate the digital world to make sure they get through it and build healthy digital habits they can carry into adulthood.