What’s up with kids these days? They spend all their time glued to a screen rather than enjoying the great outdoors with their friends like we used to, right? Wrong. Let’s look at it from a different, and less idealized, point of view and ask ourselves why they’re so dependent on digital devices.
As human behavior researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci show, overreliance on technological stimuli is a pretty good indicator of psychological undernourishment. Like us, kids need three things to flourish: autonomy, the ability to make uncoerced decisions; competence, the ability to learn and improve; and relatedness, the ability to relate meaningfully to others.
Sadly, lots of youngsters aren’t getting those things in their offline lives. At school, they are stifled by rules. At home, they bear the burden of their parents’ expectations and risk being labeled failures if they don’t do well on standardized tests which fail to stimulate their imaginations. Worse, they spend less and less unstructured time with their friends.
Add that all up and it is hardly surprising that they turn to the online world. It’s the only space they have to roam freely and interact with their friends independently. And that brings us full circle. If you want your kids to kick their digital distractions, you need to make sure you’re giving them the psychological nutrients they need to grow.
The first thing to do is make sure they are getting plenty of unstructured playtime. Countless studies show how vital this is to their development. Your best bet is to find like-minded parents and schedule regular get-togethers with their kids.
It’s just as important that children have input into how they spend their time. Like you, they are more than capable of learning to use the indistractability tools we’ve explored in these blinks. You can help that process along by talking to them about technology and its dangers and asking them how much time they think they should be spending on their phones.
You should also support their efforts to manage their own external triggers. Discuss the topic and you might even realize that you’re sometimes what’s distracting them from important tasks. Finally, help them make their own pacts to prevent distraction. The author’s daughter, for example, learned to use a kitchen-timer to monitor the time she spent watching Netflix shows when she was just five. Amazingly, that was her own idea!
From Indistractable by Nir Eyal on Blinkist