There is some research now on the effects of technology and social media on our children. I’ve been tweeting about it a bit lately. It worries me because obviously I care about my children’s ability to function well in society, to develop strong interpersonal skills, to be able to entertain themselves without a screen. But I also know if they are not incredibly comfortable with technology, they are going to fall behind and have trouble. Technology will only play a more significant role in all of our lives as we get older.
I enjoy knowing how my friends are doing via Facebook. I post on Twitter and try to keep up because I need to. I have four email accounts I check frequently. Heck, I get text messages every time someone scores in a Phillies or Eagles game. We have four computers, an iPad, two AppleTVs, two Kindles and who knows what else in our house. Our children are going to spend time in front of a screen.
I know I can help them by setting limits for them. I can help them by teaching them about technology and how to use it and the benefits of it. But it has struck me that the trick will be to teach my kids how to balance the influence of technology in their lives, to be able to have control over it than feel controlled by it.
How many adults do you know who can’t have a meeting without looking at their phone? How many adults do you know who can’t have a meal without checking their phone? Or watch a movie and are checking their friends’ Facebook status or email or Twitter or whatever it is?
Back in the day it was much easier to be in the moment, to experience what was happening when it was happening. Now, it is much easier to distract ourselves, but it is also much easier to not be fully present. By splitting our time, maybe we catch the drift of the movie or conversation and we keep up with what our friends or favorite stars or teams are doing, but there is a price, a toll we pay.
We’re missing the experience, the connection of the moment whoever we are with, whatever we are doing.
None of the best moments in my life happened on my Blackberry. My best moments are those times when I’m somewhere with my Okapis (my nickname for my children) and we are so fully in the moment that nothing else in the world matters. The best times are when my wife and I are somewhere together, fully together, and the world only exists for us. None of those moments happened with a Blackberry in my hand, but with it tucked safely into its holster on my hip, forgotten.
That’s what I want them to understand.
I want them to know how to use technology, to be comfortable with it, but to be able to know there are many times when we need to stop and live in the moment as well. I want them to remember what is happening right now is almost always more important than what is happening on some screen.