When less (technology) means more

Last month, at the invitation of my colleagues from the Polish Safer Internet Center, I attended the conference “Keeping Children and Young People Safe Online”. One of the main themes of this event was how the digital world, together with IoT (Internet of Things) affects our lives. I have heard many interesting contributions and discussions, which made me think about the topic again, summarize the findings and add my personal insights and recommendations.

Most households now commonly use smartphones and smart televisions. Some people who keep pace with the development of modern technology also use a smart refrigerator, heating or lighting. However, many parents of young children go even further, and indulge their fascination with technology by buying on-line baby monitors, breathing monitors or even smart diapers.

In addition to the numerous safety issues (in Czech), we should also consider where the limit for the number of smart devices in our home lies, dividing when they are still helping us and when they start to harm us. Whether it is a health risk or an increasing degree of dependence on modern technology, sometimes escalating into forgetting to use our common sense.

According to Elizabeth Milovidov, a lawyer and digital parenting coach, online games are as addictive to children as alcohol is to adults. Playing them makes children change their behavior, and some games even increase their aggression and reduce their attention. We should therefore consider whether the environment in which we live is not too digitized and whether we should protect our inner world by focusing more on offline activities.

Much better way to influence our children than with commands and prohibitions is setting an example and acting as we wish them to behave.

Setting up some family rules might help; they might look for example like this:

  • We don’t use our mobile phones at the dining table;
  • We don’t look at our mobile phone screens during conversations;
  • We don’t use our mobile phones in the car, unless we absolutely need to;
  • We charge the phones only in the hallway, where we also place them before bedtime (or we can specify another room);
  • We don’t use our mobile phones at night, even if we can’t sleep,

On Saturday or Sunday afternoon we have a digital detox (of course according to current possibilities).

Finally, I would like to mention one personal observation. After returning from the conference, I saw in my room the framed inscription “Home is where the Wi-Fi is”. I have to say that it made me sad about how much we let the online world enter the real world. But it is up to each of us how we deal with it. By introducing new habits to reduce the use of digital technology, we benefit not only our health but also our mental wellbeing that is particularly important in our busy society. Soon we will find out that we do not miss our phones that much and sometimes we are better off without them.

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