If anything, digital devices are a syringe. They are a delivery system. Syringes can be used to deliver a vaccination, or insulin or an illegal intravenous drug. Digital devices deliver the applications, the games and the information which we consume mentally.
Like with food and the adage of ‘you are what you eat’, increasingly we are what we consume through digital devices. It is your choice what you consume, or what you let your kids consume.
We need to educate ourselves about the inherent values and therefore impacts within our online activities and what we are delivering to our brains and to the brains of small humans.
We need to think about our online activities as having inherent nutritional values, just like food, and consider the kinds of vitamins, minerals and calorie content of our digital habits. There are junk foods and there are superfoods within the online world. We need to be sensible with our ‘digital diets’, to avoid overdosing and the necessity for ‘digital detoxes’. The alternative is ‘Digital Nutrition’.
Just like with diets and food nutrition we would benefit from considering how we can create digital lifestyles which support our whole wellbeing. There are occasions which we might indulge in some mental candy, we might need to use technology to relax and unwind – but when we use it to cope in a way which distracts us from dealing with the issue, problems arise.
Using the word addiction in this conversation stigmatises technology users and the challenges facing parents and educators to effectively integrate technology into both leisure and learning in a balanced way that is tailored to the needs of individuals.
Labelling a generation of kids as addicted to screens and stereotyping them invariably as rude, disrespectful, disconnected and mute is both mean and myopic.
Ignoring the fact that adults are responsible for technology being in their hands is parochial. The issue here is that kids appear to enjoy and engage with technology more than their parents. Adults generally have forgotten how to be curious and playful and haven’t thought to ask why. The nuances of online worlds escape most ‘digital xenophobes’ (those who fear technology because they don’t understand it).
What we need are forward thinking solutions, all of the qualities that the #EdTech movement espouses as the skills of 21st Century Learners we need to apply now to the expected challenges of the sudden ubiquity of technology.
Technology addiction headlines are clickbait, designed to disempower parents and grandparents from exploring a deeper understanding of the nuances and complexities of our tech-saturated world. What we need to ask ourselves is, are you going to be a part of the problem of a part of the solution? Digital Nutrition is about the solutions.
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Here’s a song to go with this blog: Jurassic Five’s Contribution
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Jocelyn Brewer is a psychologist based in Sydney, Australia. She works in schools with young people and has done so since 2002. She created Digital Nutrition and gave a TEDx talk on it in May 2015. Google her name, you’ll find out more.