The pervasive problem of technology comes from social media and the anticipation of a Snap or an Instagram post. The social and psychological triggers that occur afterwards also do damage.
Over the past decade, the number of teenagers and children reporting suicidal thoughts has doubled, coinciding directly with the growth of personal technology and social media usage.
Twenge describes the “psychic” cost to children as they grow consumed with screen activity, whether the screen is in front of them or not.
Does this feel familiar to you as a millennial, too?
Those iGens spending less time in front of a screen, though – playing sports, connecting with friends face-to-face – are less likely to be unhappy and depressed.
The main way to embrace this issue, to really own it, is one step at a time. There is no one right answer. Everyone has their own rhythms and boundaries, and financial and cultural realities and values.
Any practice of mindfulness, such as yoga, meditation and basic breathing practices (taught in all mind-body-spiritual disciplines), lay the groundwork for change. These practices create an opposite effect on a person to that of a phone.
Using a device transports you to a mental and physical experience disconnected from your immediate environment and awareness of your breath. Meditation and mindfulness, and much more simply, one long deep breath (inhale and exhale), bring you back to immediate awareness of yourself and your surroundings.
The process is very simple, but it takes commitment and follow-up.
Following are five easy ways to shift the balance:
1. Physical activity
Start with yoga, or with any desired physical activity that gets the body and the breath moving. Walk around the block, run, cycle, anything. Do any activity at all that leaves the phone behind or at least zipped in the pocket.
Notice each breath, or some breaths, or any breathing at all, and internalize that at this moment you are aware and connected to your body. YouTube has hundreds of free yoga channels, and such low-cost sites offer online yoga classes.
And the best option: Walking outside is free.
2. Mindfulness techniques
Learn basic mindfulness techniques. Spend your weekly or regular spiritual time (church, mosque, synagogue) recognizing that you are aware and present, and you are a choosing a nourishing offline activity that feeds your body and brain.
3. Set rules around technology in your crib
All devices aside until meals are over. No tech one hour before bed, only informative tech during the week, and entertainment tech on weekends. Most of us have tried this, but combined with the simplest, shortest of mindful activities (#1 and #2), you will be able to enforce the boundaries more clearly and will be more grounded and flexible when they need to be changed.
4. Be accountable to yourself
Be accountable to yourself and to everyone with the boundaries you’ve set for yourself. Own your part of it and model the behaviour you want to see.
5. Talk with friends
Talk with friends and build a community of like-minded people working on this issue. Teach and discuss your thoughts and discoveries with your friends/ family over dinner, or over the weekend. Learn mindful unplugging alongside your friends, and show them you’re as committed, and as present, as you’re asking them to be.