Technology is not going away any time soon.   I see people who fight against technology and fight against exposing their kids to technology; this seems like a futile fight.  Technology is the tool that will be carried on throughout time.  We are cruising quickly toward the sci-fi descriptions of the future.  Children that are not allowed to learn about and use current technology will be behind their peers when entering the job market.  Our children will use new technology in their future jobs, whether working as a linesman, an architect, or a programmer.  But, how will the use of all this technology change their brains?

 

When reading was introduced in schools and purposefully taught to students, there were many concerns.  People were afraid that reading would change the human brain.  Their fears were realized. While learning to read did change the human brain, the change was positive. It created more neural connections and made our brains even more efficient.

 

At the start of the Information filled era, scientists were concerned about how technology use would change our brains.  There has been a lot of concern about this, especially for our children.  The fact is, we are not sure how technology will change our brains.  This change, however, does not have to be bad.  It is up to us make technology beneficial for our brains.

 

There are some things we do know about how technology affects the brain.  We know that technology and social media use is linked with surges of dopamine in our brain.  Dopamine gives a momentary “feel good” sensation.  Dopamine is also responsible for getting us hooked on things.  Addiction is tied with dopamine release.  When a person hears a message ding, there is a surge of dopamine.  It feels good to get a message; we like to feel noticed and important.

 

What does that mean for our children?  It means that technology and social media can be highly addictive for our children.  Our children are highly susceptible to surges of dopamine and addiction. Take a quick test.

  • Does your child sleep with his phone right next to his bed or even in his bed?
  • Does your child check her phone before she even gets out of bed in the morning?
  • Does your child watch videos, snap chat or check Instagram while eating breakfast or during other meals?
  • Does your child become anxious if he cannot be connected to his phone, iPad or computer?
  • Does your child become angry at the thought of you taking away her technology as a form of discipline?
  • Does your child check his phone in the middle of a face-to-face conversations?
  • Does your child text, snap, twitter, or message people while in school or during other social activities?

 

If you answered yes to even some of these questions, your child may be on the road to technology addiction.  We must remember that technology and social media are tools.  We must use these tools responsibly.  That means you need to help your child use technology responsibly, help your child to value face-to-face interaction, and help your child to learn to connect with a real person in times of stress.

 

The following is a list of suggestions to help your child or adolescent find balance between using the tools of technology and finding joy in the human connection.

 

  • Have your child charge his devices at the kitchen table, den or living room at night.  Do not allow your child to take her devices to bed.  This allows your child to learn to be unplugged.  In addition, it allows his brain to have much needed rest from technology.
  • Encourage a family rule of no devices during meals.  Use meal time for family connection.  Talk about your day, plans, enjoy each other’s company, and laugh.
  • Teach your child technology etiquette.  Encourage your child to leave her device at the table when she has a friend over.  Teach your child to keep his device in his pocket with the ringer and vibrate off, while having a face-to-face discussion.  Remind your child that when the conversation is over, he may check or use his phone.
  • Spend time with your child and model good technology behavior.  Leave your device at home and take your child out for a hike in nature, for a round of basketball in the driveway, or play a game of cards.  Teach your child that real connection is where he will find joy and comfort.
  • Talk to your child about their social media posts.  Be sure she understands that while technology offers her a filter to stand behind, it does not give her free access to say hurtful things.
  • Ask your child about the kind of things that is posted on Instagram and snap chat.  Be sure to question posts that concern you.
  • Encourage your child to have friends over to the house.  Children need real-life connections.  Social media friends are superficial.  Children need to know that when they are stressed or depressed, they should turn to real human connection to find help.

 

Technology is a tool.  When used responsibly as a tool, it is a great thing and will help us achieve great things as a society.  Too much technology and technology used in inappropriate ways can be bad.  It can become an addiction that will cost your child personal relationships and cause depression.  Help your child develop a sense of responsibility and respect for technology!

 

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