Monday, May 08, 2017

Important food for thought on screen time

I listened to these two episodes of TED radio hour while on a long hike last week and they were full of some powerful food for thought - all the ramifications of the screen time that we and our kids are experiencing these days. Really made me think and wonder...

We walk around with these mini-computers in our pockets that give us miraculous connections to people that we love and information that we need. But it's so easy to get caught up in what is happening elsewhere and connections with people who aren't near us at the cost of being fully present and enjoying what is actually happening to us in real time and interacting in a non-distracted way with the people who are physically with us.

Most of us have two realities - the one we are living and the one we are sharing. What does that do to us? And to those who see what we post? No matter how "real" we may earnestly try to be on social media, it is natural for us to want to capture and share the great things in our lives. Plus, because of the shear magnitude of what we all experience internally and externally every day, we could never present the full picture of our lives on social media.

There's some interesting stuff on how passive screen time (watching TV) affects us and our children differently than active screen time (using an ap or playing a game where our actions affect what the screen shows us). There's some thought-provoking stuff about how virtual reality can change our thoughts and feelings beyond what film can do. There's stuff about how we're essentially all "cyborgs" these days - people who have enhanced abilities due to technological gadgets we attach to ourselves (our phones) that affect our abilities and actions (we can remember things in a super-human way when we record things with our phones using text or photos, we can find out information and shop and do so much more without even moving from our chairs...). 

No one knows how the screen time that is such an integral part of our lives will affect us long-term. We are all guinea pigs. Scientists are trying to figure it out but they have a long long way to go. They have done studies on mice who are exposed to tons of flashing screens and noisy TV shows and have found that those exposed to a certain number of hours of this every day loose their ability to retain information (i.e. groups of mice who were not exposed to all the TV were able to learn and remember how to get through a maze much more quickly than those who were exposed to all the screen time). I see my teenagers so glued to their phones, feeling they simply must see what is on Snapchat or reply to a text, during dinner or while I'm trying to talk to them about something. It's like I'm cutting off their arm or something when I tell them to hand over the phone so they can more fully be present - but it's important and I do make them put phones in their pockets or put them away. We have lots of talks about how we need to be with who we're with while we're with them - that the present person needs to be prioritized over the person or material in cyberspace. But it's hard. That little device is so tempting...

There's a lot more involved in these two episodes but I thought I'd put down a few of the things I remember off the top of my head.

Screen Time I: It's become pretty normal for us to always be glued to our screens. So how are they changing us, and how will they shape our future? This hour, TED speakers explore our ambivalent relationships with our screens. Screen Time II: When we go online, we present a digital version of ourselves. How do we transform when we interact inside our screens? In this episode, TED speakers explore the expanding role of our "second selves."

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