By Reid Goldsborough
A poll of more than 1,200 U.S. parents and children by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit that offers educational materials on digital media and safe technology for children, highlights a problem that's getting increasingly old: We're raising a generation of young people addicted to their smartphones and other digital devices.
In reporting its findings, Common Sense Media says overreliance on portable digital technology can cause problems, including unsafe driving, shoddy homework, and compromised family time. Multitasking while using a smartphone can hinder your ability to focus and prevent the formation of memories. Infrequent in-person interaction can interfere with the development of empathy.
Here are some of the poll’s key findings:
Because of their need to connect with their peers, teens are especially vulnerable to the instant gratification smartphones can provide through texting and social media posting. The irony is these fleeting virtual connections can damage your ability to connect in real life. But teens aren't the only ones affected. The Common Sense Media poll found that while 50 percent of children say they can't put their phones down, 27 percent of adults say the same about themselves. An astonishing 56 percent of adults say they check their smartphones while driving.
What to do? As with other aspects of parenting, part of the solution lies with setting boundaries for children. This also can be said about adult self-control, setting boundaries for our own behavior.
But it's not easy. The poll indicates half of parents and one-third of teens say they "very often" or "occasionally" try to cut down on the amount of time they spend with their devices.
Completely banning portable digital technology isn't a practical solution. Despite the problems, the upsides of the technology are too great. We just need better balance.
Common Sense Media offers these specific suggestions:
—Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.reidgold.com.