The Rise of Addictive Technology

I had the opportunity to attend a presentation earlier this week at Town Hall Seattle on The Rise of Addictive Technology.

I found it to be one of the most provocative and informative presentations I have ever experienced, and I want to share some takeaways with all of you.

The primary theme/message was that people of all ages, but particularly school-aged children, are experiencing a compulsion to constantly be engaged with their devices. This has caused them to be less engaged with the people around them and less in tune with their immediate surroundings. In other words, mindfulness has reached an alarming low in our society. Screen time has diminished or completely replaced interaction with people, books, nature, God, and many other entities that would have been considered to be paramount to development socially and academically in past eras.

I am sure this is not news to any of you, but the levels of screen time for children and adults reported at this presentation, and in my cursory research since, has surprised me greatly. Depending on which source you use, average screen time for school-aged children is reported anywhere from 4 to 10 hours a day. A CNN report this last year claimed that adults spend 10 hours a day looking at a screen of some sort.

The presentation talked about the many negative results that this sort of attention to devices can have on individuals and society as a whole, but this letter would be far too long if I were to list them all. Therefore, I encourage you to do a little research yourself. There is a great deal of literature out there on this subject.

The presenter did provide some suggestions on how to find balance in this era of ubiquitous technology though, and I want to pass them along to you in case you would like to consider them.

  • As a family, dedicate 3 hours of screen-free time. He suggested starting with 1 and increasing it gradually if this is a new policy. This also meant turning off notifications on devices that would cause distraction or an urge to check them.
  • Set preferences on your child’s devices that limit functions at certain times during the day.
  • Get out into nature.
  • Download a free app called “Moment”. It is a screen time tracker that also provides easy to analyze data on the amount of time spent on individual apps during the day. Additionally, it tracks how many times you unlock your phone or tablet during the day.

I have started using this myself, and I have already found that I am more mindful of the amount of time I spend on devices. I highly recommend this. The presenter also recommends making a prediction regarding your, or your child’s, average daily screen time before downloading it so that you can compare it against the actual numbers. I think this is sound advice that can be very informative for all of us. I know that the prediction I had for myself was not accurate, which caused me to be much more reflective. Additionally, this app provides you with information on when the device is being used, which can be a helpful monitoring tool.

I hope you find this letter useful. We are all learning how to navigate this technological era, and I just wanted to pass along some info and tools to those of you who might find it helpful.

Our devices have changed the world in many positive ways, but balance is always going to be vital to our well-being.

I have included the information for the presentation and the speaker below in case you would like to find out more. I also included the details of the app I spoke about.

Thank you for taking a moment to read this. I really think it is crucially important for all of us to be thinking about this in order to ensure that we are helping our students develop socially, emotionally, and academically as best as they possibly can.

Zack Cunningham