Call me old and boring (my kids do it all the time), but I'm a bit astounded by how obsessed people are with their assorted handheld digital devices. I can't help but notice, however, that wherever I go, iPhones, Smartphones are there too, and not just with teenagers. People of all ages seem to be in constant need of being connected.
I don't completely get it.
There's something to be said about disconnecting from technology, even if for a short time. Is it really necessary to be constantly in touch with every person? Can't that text message wait just a few minutes while you're having a conversation or eating a meal? Should you really be making the call or texting while you're driving?
The answer is clear. All it takes is a little common sense to realize that life goes on without phone calls and text messages. Generations have lived, probably for the better, without them. Furthermore, this obsession with being connected can have serious consequences for both children and parents, alike.
With this in mind, maybe it's time to re-learn how to disconnect. Here are five good reasons to remind you why.
1. People don't pay attention to their surroundings.
As a consequence, accidents and injuries for teenage pedestrians is on the rise. This coincides with the skyrocketing popularity of texting among that age group. The reality is when a person steps into an intersection while texting, it can have tragic consequences.
2. Constant cell phone use can have psychological consequences.
Studies have shown that when teenagers used their cell phones at bedtime, they were at increased risk for mental health problems and even suicidal thoughts. Experts believe that the association might be due to sleep problems that can arise from too much "screen time" before bed.
3. It could save a person's life.
We are all familiar with the hazards of driving while talking on the phone, but the dangers of texting behind the wheel is a no-brainer. Operating a two-ton vehicle at high speeds while trying to text is completely ridiculous, not to mention unnecessary.
4. It's just bad manners.
Most people don't appreciate it when your attention is elsewhere in their presence, as if you were saying you have better places to be. In my opinion, nothing relays this message more clearly than checking your smartphone.
5. It could decrease your chances of being bullied or abused.
I'm not a "texter," but I have succumbed to this on email. When a conflict arises, I constantly check my messages to see where it is going. I'm guessing texting is the same, only on a larger scale. The reality is, online bullying and stalking have reached epidemic proportions, and the need to be constantly connected only fuels this fire.
6. It might help keep you trim.
It is common knowledge that lack of sleep is a risk factor for obesity. There is also a growing body of evidence that constant and excessive screen time in the evening can disrupt sleep patterns, which is all the more reason to log out and let your mind wind down at bedtime. You can always log back in when you wake up.
What's a Parent to Do?
Let's face it, most communication does not need to be constant or instantaneous. Unless it's a life threatening situation, we don't need to check our messages or respond in real time.
Getting your child to understand this will likely fall on deaf ears, but you can start by leading by example. When children see their parents obsessed with digital communication, of course they'll follow suit. Plus, as a parent, it's your role to set boundaries and enforce them, especially if it involves their health and safety.
We live in a culture that is sadly lacking in manners and decorum, so why not encourage your kids to stop what they're doing, look up and be engaged with the person they are talking to — especially when it's their parents?