Our Brains Are Getting Fried:
A majority of us are checking our phones every 4.3 minutes. As if that were not enough, we use notifications for sports, news and messages. For a 6 second focused attention we are trading off 2 hours of social media consumption.
The speed at which screen images change then creates increasing levels of stimulation in their brains. Now the same child has to adapt to the pace of human voices and lower speed interactions in a classroom setting. This disparity in stimulation is leaving children unable to cope with this “boring” real life.
Teachers and Parents are finding it exhausting to conduct classrooms or meaningful conversations because the attention span of our children is dwindling. The reason is clear. Our brains have taken hundreds and thousands of years to evolve, they are not just primed for the speed of the technological revolution of just 10 years.
Understanding Addiction And Down Regulation:
Here’s the point. It’s not 100% our lack of self-discipline that we’ve become screen suckers. These devices are engineered for addiction – making children as young as 2 years old getting their much needed Happiness hormone “Dopamine” through scrolling their devices endlessly.
Down regulation is a phenomenon that occurs when there is a drop in dopamine receptors in the reward processing area of the brain. This causes a decrease in our ability to feel pleasure, resulting in a need to seek more stimulation. And that keeps us scrolling endlessly, refreshing aimlessly to see if we can bring back some of those feel good hormones.
Can you imagine our excitement when a bill was recently introduced into Congress called the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology (SMART) Act that puts Big Tech accountable to their “keeping us hooked” strategies?!
But, let’s be realistic here. It will be years before everyone comes to an agreement on whether digital addiction is real, because, there’s no “enough data” on it yet, although countries like China have a category for Internet Addiction already.
Boredom And Physical Nurture As A Mainstay:
According to a National Institute of Health (NIH) study, the brain scans of 4500 children ages 9 and 10, who spend more than seven hours a day using digital devices show signs of premature thinning of the cortex, the brain’s outermost layer that processes sensory information. Kids who spend more than 2 hours a day on screens score worse on language and reasoning tests.
Critics and Big Tech executives will continue to shout, “insufficient data”, “not sure if it’s a bad thing” etc etc. But, the American Academy of Pediatrics recent guidelines on screen time recommends, “Avoid digital media use—except video chatting—in children younger than 18 to 24 months.”
The lesson? Let children be children and allow their minds to wander, get bored and explore their natural surroundings. A few silent minutes each day for reflecting on our actions and activities helps us connect dots and understand patterns in our behavior. It’s a proven way to enhance creation and innovation in ourselves.
There are so many important developmental activities a child should be subjected to instead of a heavy dose of screen time – good food and sleep habits, healthy adult interactions, the advantage of human touch, face to face conversations and physical activity.
Start With These Strategies:
“Social media is not for children under 14. Parental discretion is important. Moderation and Parental Guidance is Key.” We keep getting bombarded by messages like these all the time.
But, can it really be us vs. technology??
So, here are a couple of strategies that will allow us to get started on our digital minimalism journey.
Ask Questions: Ask your children what interests them. Are there places and people they want to visit? Are there projects they would like to do offline?
Define Rules: Remember you’re the boss. And you reserve the right to tech free times and zones in the house. And if they complain of boredom, ask them to deal with it. Read a book, play a board game, or throw ball, the possibilities are endless.
Parents And Adults As Mindful Rolemodels:
When we use Technology as a free babysitter, our children and our collective future pays a price. We are paying with our attention spans, our mental abilities because “personal devices” make us emotionally distant. We’re paying a huge price with our inability to delay gratification – a quality that determines the level of our self-control and thereby our long term success.
If we’re finding it hard to resist our devices can you imagine what are children are going through. So it’s important to model good digital habits. There must be a way to keep certain areas of the house tech free at any cost.
Let’s teach our children what good digital citizenship looks like by leading the way. Let’s start by being mindful of how we spend our time.