When we think of technology, we think of something that’s integrated and vital in our daily lives. We wake up and it’s there; our mobile phones, our Fitbits, our laptops. Technology shapes the way we communicate, date, work, cook, work out, and so much more. We’re hailing cabs through an app, we’re doing our banking online, and we’re trading in our paper boarding passes for digital ones. In fact, adults spend an average of 45 percent of their waking hours consuming a proliferation of technology.
So, where do we draw the line in our relationship with it? Is technology benefiting humanity? Or, does it have negative implications, causing addictive tendencies?
To understand addiction, we must first define it. Dictionary.com describes addiction as, “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming,” While we may not keenly admit that we are “enslaved to technology,” it is a reality that some adults and children face today.
Take your cell phone, for example. Step back and think about how often you actually use it. You may be part of the 58 percent of smartphone users who don’t go one hour without checking their phones. Or, you could be one of 54% of smartphone users who checks their phone while in bed, including as soon as they wake up. While there is currently no standard for what constitutes smartphone addiction, experts define it as spending seven hours or more per day using a cell phone, and having withdrawal symptoms when cut off.
These statistics are staggering, and even more so when you realize that addiction to technology can affect your physical and emotional health, as well as behavioral characteristics. Studies have shown that technology addiction can lead to brain surface shrinkage over time, as much as 20 percent. But how can we avoid becoming addicted when we see younger generations functioning better online than off?
The answer lies in the motto “everything in moderation,” Simply put, you are in control, and it’s time to act like it. Here are four guidelines that can help with technology addiction in your home:
- Implement Offline Time
Set aside times at home where no one is allowed to use technology. No cellphones, laptops, or iPads – everything must be turned off. Use that time for family time and include activities like reading, talking, getting outside together, or engaging in something creative. The sky’s the limit.
- Set Structure
Families need structure; it benefits both the parents and the kids. When clear rules are in place, it eliminates a lot of the guesswork and sets a routine. For example, after dinner set a one-hour technology limit for the family. Parents don’t have to take away technology completely, but if everyone knows exactly when it’s okay to be online, the struggle around permission fades away.
- Set a Consumption Space
Limit technology consumption to one common area in the home, such as the living room. This avoids someone disappearing for hours behind a closed door without any supervision. It allows parents to see what their kids are doing online – promoting safety – and allows parents to close the gap in understanding how their child uses technology.
- Establish Content Rules
There is a ton of inappropriate and unsuitable material available online. Limiting content sources and discussing what’s appropriate with your family helps to filter out bad content. Netflix, for example, allows you to pre-approve shows and movies for a user.
There are clear benefits to consuming technology, however, both adults and children are susceptible to addiction. Setting rules in the home, as well as staying informed and educated about the matter can help keep addictive tendencies at bay. Technology is here to stay, so finding the right balance for your family is key.