Every time I’m on social media I see one post after another about how you can’t be in any type of social space (concerts, parks, birthday parties, restaurants, museums, etc….) without seeing obvious signs of technology addiction. When we’re gathering we’re near-silent with virtually no mental or emotional investment in our surroundings. This common scene is kind of disheartening, don’t you think?
Why be together if you’re not really present?
So when I saw this recent NY Times article about Technology Addiction and Children, I knew I had to write this blog to offer a reminder about the growing problem of our devices invading our space, and to help you be aware of how this overuse of technology actually can hurt you, and your children. [Science says it’s true.]
As this article says, too much dependence and overuse of technology can significantly affect emotional behavior (such as causing kids to feel lonely and depressed), contribute to unhealthy weight gain (for example, snacking mindlessly to marathon-play Minecraft), and leave children without the ability to learn how to handle their emotions (feeling, thinking, responding to real life situations). Studies show that too much tech use can also cause kids to lose the ability to focus and develop critical thinking skills. Kids need to practice actually having conversation to learn to express their thoughts and ideas (and take the time to reflect upon what their ideas are in the first place).
When we’re with others in person without the distraction of technology we can experience all the nuances of communication like noticing body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Otherwise, we might as well all look and act the same, and mechanically interact like “Master Chief” from Halo.
This problem is real. And it’s hardly just a problem for kids! (Ask any parent or adult who is coping with their own tech use.)
But still–many of us deny this is an issue and consider constant tech presence a way of life.
But is it really the way life has to be? —- Nope, actually it’s not.
A very logical and practical antidote to technology addiction is to share 1 meal a day.
Come out of the virtual clouds and be with someone you love!
When you think about it, sharing one meal a day is a pretty simple way to address this problem.
If you have just one shared meal a day you are helping to offset many negative effects that technology addiction can cause. You are preserving your bond with someone you love, preserving your ability to focus, solve problems, and regulate your emotions. [These are not small things! Wouldn’t you agree?]
Making space for just one shared meal a day won’t keep people from powering up in every social situation, but it will provide us all a baseline of social skills that this society can’t afford to lose.
Here’s a few final tips to help you get started:
- Set a time to talk about tech boundaries in your household (what are some reasonable boundaries you can create right away…today?)
- Develop a shared-meal plan that allows you to share at least 1 meal a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner…it doesn’t matter which!)
- Keep your devices away from the dining space (so you can converse and enjoy each other’s company).
- Take a moment to consider if you really need to check that email the next time you are at a concert, birthday party, or any social event. (Ask yourself, “Can it wait? Chances are, it can.)
If you’d like to read more about creating a shared-meal plan for your family, feel free to visit my website at www.shared-meals. I’d love to chat with you and hear about your experiences in helping to preserve connection with people you love.