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Introducing: the 4th M of Digital Nutrition

Apr 19, 2024

the 4th M of Digital Nutrition

For a long time, I’ve talked about the 3M’s of Digital Nutrition – mindful, meaningful and moderate.

Its time to meet the 4th M – Modelling!

I was invited back to be a guest on Dr Ron Erlich’s Unstressed Podcast (third time lucky!) and he mentioned the importance of modelling – especially in relation to children and the way that small people are always watching, absorbing and making mental rules and schemas around what they see, do and feel.  Our habits with technology are now a large part of what we demonstrate to and normalise to other humans (of all ages). I decided this was an important M to add to the other three.

Like a yawn, our use of devices can be contagious! When we see one person pull out their devices this often provides implicit permission for us to also engage with technology.

As social creatures who live radically different lives to our ancestors. We learn and acquire different types of knowledge in many ways – both formally in schools and other learning settings (like a webinar), as well as informally – through our everyday social experiences, by observing other people around us (and their actions) and through the information we consume via our online activities.

Social-emotional learning is often invisible – its transmitted without direct instruction and can influence our unspoken social norms or mores.  Social Learning Theory underpins this and gives rise to the importance of positive, values aligned sources of social learning – the examples and models for behaviour that we observe.  Increasingly we observe an array of human behaviour (values, attitudes and ideas) via the myriad of online spaces we inhabit.

Humans are wired to connect with one another which is a big part of why we sometimes feel wired into our devices – it’s actually the like-minded humans and buzz of connection that we seek.

Our communities differ greatly from ‘the village’ of about 50 people who supported families in previous generations. We often have hundreds if not thousands of people, whose lives we can purvey and view (make interpretations of and compare ourselves to) via social media.

Again, it’s the influence that these humans and their values have on us that is interesting to consider – it provides a model or blueprint for how to act, think and be. We need to appraise and discern if and how this fits in with our own ways of thinking and being. Thinking critically about this is important when it comes to things like some of the ‘challenges’, medical advice or life hacks you might see people promote on TikTok.

Everyone has influence.  Sure, influencers might have vast followings and reach – but anyone can have a ripple effect on another human in different ways.

Parents, especially mothers (who are more often than not the primary caregiver), play a pivotal role in modelling to infants and children. Parents set the tone and expectations, they model language, support skill development and often provide a child’s first taste of technology through their own habits.

Other caring adults can play a natural mentoring role (both online and offline) for younger folks and we can use this to guide and direct young peoples’ common values.  Positive role models help us to set goals (again, not always explicitly) by demonstrating ways of being, acting and thinking that we resonate with and inspire action and endeavour.

To be a strong role model for others consider how some of your actions (from how you might speak to customer service people to how you comment online) might have a ripple effect on those around you and what those actions might speak about you. While we don’t have to imagine ‘big brother’ watching our every move, remembering that we do have influence and there are some people who are more vulnerable and susceptible to that influence, can help to positively shape our behaviours and society.

Times this by a million when it comes to the signals, permissions and implied values when it comes to how we model our use of technology, at home, in cafes, at the park or standing in the supermarket cue.

When we become conscious of what we are (role) modelling it can give us a good indication of whether our own habits, actions and behaviours are aligned to our values and goals.  Then simply redirect these compassionately in the more congruent direction



Reflection questions

1.Who are some of the people you ‘look up to’ and who you consider as role models? What are the qualities or values that these people have and hold that you resonate with? How has this changed over time?

2.Consider the people in your life who you ‘influence’, inspire and have an effect on – in what ways are you positively role modelling behaviours to them?

3.What do you notice about and perhaps even find yourself judging other people’s poor role modelling and not-great habits around technology?

4.When you pause and notice some of your current habits with devices, social media, games and other online activities – what are these actions signalling and how might these be impacting (positively or negatively) the people around you?


Download our free reflective eBook here.

Or, for just $22 download our video course The 4M’s of Digital Nutrition where you’ll learn practical ways to apply these principles.




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