There are so many things in our day-to-day that we can judge, that we can assign negative value to, that we can refuse to agree-to-disagree with our neighbor about. Divisions, hard lines and full stop statements abound. When we compare it to our own childhood years, there just seems to be so much more to deal with as a kid these days. And there is. The popularity and expansiveness of technology has, quite literally, changed the world and that world is changing us.
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We can choose to be wary of technology, especially in the form of social media and general entertainment consumption. We can worry about the negative effects of technology on our society, on our families, and on ourselves (and rightfully so!) And we can certainly choose to abstain from this force that seems to be taking over the world and changing it from comfortable and predictable to unruly and unmanageable. But what would that solve? Are we just delaying the inevitable? That technology is at the helm and we must either learn (and teach our children) to navigate the waters of social media and other potentially negative forms of technology, or get caught up in the storm.
One way I’ve chosen to approach my commitment to embracing technology is simply by acknowledging its positive effects. Technology can actually bring us joy and it’s okay to acknowledge that!
Think of having “the technology talk” with your kids in the same way that you would have “that other talk”. First of all, it’s never just one talk. Nothing worth talking about is. Be prepared to address recurring issues, to bring up potential hazards as well as potential positive uses, and to keep that communication channel open all the time. Second, much like sex, it’s important to be honest with our kids about the fact that while inherent dangers abound, that if used appropriately, the use of technology should more often than not lead to joy rather than danger or harm.
Let’s lead with joy. Some ways that technology brings us joy if curated to do so:
- Goal Setting and Attaining
The automation of tasks and ability to multi-task with technology alone has been life-changing and life-enhancing to many. Tracking apps, Countdowns, swipe to buy, order for later, click and go. Want to save some money, eat better and create more effective routines? Plan your meals online and order your groceries for delivery or pickup all while sitting in the pickup line. Want to include meditation or exercise into your daily routine? Follow the millions of users dishing out free content on your phone and get some you-time in before the kids are even out of bed. What can you use that smartphone for, for you? Lead by example. When the kids see you using technology in a positive way, in a way that enhances your life and trickles down to them – they will know that the power of technology can be a positive force and will use that as their baseline.
2. Accessing Information and Deciphering Sources/Intentions
Never before this generation of accessibility have we been able to get answers to ANY question at any moment. This has created the dreaded, and downright terrifying, world of misinformation, fake news, echo chambers and more. But let’s not let that overshadow the fact that we DO have incredible access to information. Make it your mission to teach your kids how to search, how to identify reputable sources, how to digest and process conflicting information, and how to be good digital citizens. What are your family’s values and resources that align? How could you encourage a non-biased, open-minded peak into a conflicting piece of information? Can you child learn to consider various pieces of information and come to their own conclusions? We have that access, and the education to use it appropriately is on our school system and us as parents.
3. Connection and Communication
Nothing like a pandemic to open up our minds on what it means to “stay in touch”, amirite?
Joy through technology is sending a quick note to someone you love when you don’t have the time for a real phone call or in-person visit. It’s being able to get a glimpse into the life of your family members and friends who live far away, by browsing their recent photos. It’s a jog down memory lane when you scroll past an old friend’s post. It’s the smile on your face when someone you’d all but forgotten about reaches out to wish you a Happy Birthday.
At the end of the day, after your screen-time is up and devices put away, if you think back on your use of technology throughout the day with a smile – you’ve done it right. If you are scared, nervous, angry, fearful or sad – if your life is not enhanced with its presence – I would suggest a deeper exploration. There are plenty of articles, arguments and positions about the pitfalls and shadows of technology, while this post is about the sunshine. Like any other mind-altering substance, used in moderation – it can be healthy and a wonderful thing. And yet, for some people, it may be best to be left entirely alone.