Today, so many kids are “bored” if they don’t have a movie playing or a tablet to play games -- they no longer know how to just “be”.

Think back to your youth. Think of road trips, air travel, and the many games of I-Spy and the alphabet game you played with your family, or of the hours of fun you had with Colorforms and Magic Slates. We did okay without technology, didn’t we?

I’d be lying if I said my childhood road trips were devoid of technological influence. Ahead of his time, I remember my dad setting up a portable black and white television in the early 1980s -- replete with collapsible antennae and travel handle -- plugging it into the cigarette lighter outlet and hooking up the Pong paddles for my sister and myself to play. 

And sometimes we tried to tune into Sesame Street as we whizzed down the highway, headed to visit family. But if my dad didn’t set up the T.V., we still had plenty of ways to occupy ourselves on long drives. 

Today, so many kids are “bored” if they don’t have a movie playing or a tablet to play games -- they no longer know how to just “be”.


The very creators and innovators of the technology ruling our society, are aware of the addictive nature of digital tech, which is why they limit their own children’s use.


Technology’s Effects on Our Children

While technology is meant to make our lives easier, its affect on teens is unequivocally making them unhappier. There is absolutely no doubt that digital media, and specifically social media, is having a psychological impact on our children. 

Take, for example, an article from The Atlantic, reporting that an 8th grader’s risk for depression jumps 27% with social media use, or that teens spending three or more hours per day on electronic devices are 35% more likely to have a suicide risk factor. Sobering, to say the least.

The consequences of tech exposure continue, with research now showing that the blue light emitted by smartphones and tablets is disrupting the sleep our teens so dearly need to healthily develop. 

At a time when children are so fragile, and when their brains are still developing, research is showing that smartphones are contributing to mounting issues with self-image and self-esteem.


Tech is Used Sparingly By the Privileged

Meaningful connections and creativity are what our children lose when we let technology rule our lives, which is likely why many high-profile CEOs and executive leaders raise their kids tech-free or low-tech. 

Consider the Obamas, who raised their daughters without television on school nights, and didn’t allow computer use for entertainment purposes. Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, rightly stated that [computers and television] “are a privilege that we don’t value deeply.”

The issue of technology being a privilege, and that “privileged” children don’t tend to use tech as much as their underprivileged counterparts isn’t coincidental. 

In today’s world, time is a commodity which many parents struggle to to have enough of, and it often means the difference between hands-on parenting or family experiences (that don’t involve technology or screens), and a child being “babysat” or occupied with a device. 

In fact, a Common Sense Media study reports that “teens from lower-income families spend an average of two hours and forty-five minutes more with electronic media per day than teens from higher-income families.”


Valuing Mindfulness Over the Mindlessness of Tech

The abundant access to technology, no matter one’s socioeconomic status, makes turning to tech to entertain incredibly easy. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s more difficult to make plans for an educational or cultural outing than it is to pick up a smartphone or tablet and surf the internet, check social media or play an app. 

The mindlessness involved in much of our kids screen time activities is what’s affecting them, because they no longer have to make an effort. And the effects of excessive screen use and social media exposure are proven to be detrimental to our children; this is a fact that both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs understood, despite careers creating the very tech we now love and hate.

Interestingly, the very creators and innovators of the technology ruling our society, are aware of the addictive nature of digital tech, which is why they limit their own children’s use. 

Case in point is Bill Gates, who didn’t allow his children to have cell phones until they were 14 years of age, and imposed screen time limits after his daughter became unhealthily involved in a video game.


You’re Not Alone

If you think you’re alone in the never-ending technology and parenting quandary, know that you’re in good company; Melinda Gates, despite having a long and successful career in technology, is till working it out. 

She states, "I spent my career at Microsoft trying to imagine what technology could do, and still I wasn’t prepared for smartphones and social media. Like many parents with children my kids’ age, I didn’t understand how they would transform the way my kids grew up — and the way I wanted to parent. I’m still trying to catch up."


About Lauren B. Stevens

Lauren B. Stevens is a writer, editor & digital parent, whose pieces have been published across the internet and featured in several print anthologies. Lauren lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and son, and enjoys spending her family time hiking and traveling.

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