Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Digital Mastery Tools for Parents: Slow Tech & iRules

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Digital-Dependence-Parenting-for-Peace So let’s say you’ve been nodding your head at what you’ve read so far in this series (not to mention lots of other places) about the quiet costs of digital devotion… but what now?? What do you DO about it?! How do you tame the iBeast you invited in, before you realized it was hacking your children’s brain chemistry to engineer their deepening digital dependence? How do you transform iWorries into iRules? Assuming you’ve checked out the two solid entry-level guidelines I offered a few weeks ago, and you’re looking for some next-level ideas, Janell Burley Hofmann has some road-tested family tools for you.

Starting with her Slow Tech Manifesto:

                          (Click on any of the above text to read Hofmann’s Manifesto in its entirety — it’s worth it and it’s short!)

The Wonder of iRules

Janell’s slow-tech family savvy led to the book iRules and the development of the iRules Contract, to help foster tech health and balance in your family. You can read Hofmann’s very first iRules contract here; it was for her 13-year-old son on a Christmas some years ago. And in partnership with VISR — a social media and e-mail monitoring platform to alert parents when there is questionable activity on their children’s social media account — she has created a dynamic iRules template you can use to develop a template that works within your family’s unique values and needs. I’d love to hear if you find this tool helpful! Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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BRAIN HACKING: Hijacking You From the Inside

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017


What do you, me and Anderson Cooper have in common? A creeping suspicion that we have, to some degree, an addiction to our devices. That was Cooper’s opening question for former Google product manager Tristan Harris during his “Brain-Hacking” segment on 60 Minutes this week.

What followed makes my job easy for this Wired Wednesday: I suggest… nay, I implore… you to see this episode. And with due recognition to the efficiency demands of our current “attention economy,” you don’t even need to spend the time it would take to watch the episode: CBS News has kindly provided a transcript that you can read through very quickly.

Yup, you can have your (brain-hacked) mind blown in a mere 3 minutes. Is it chilling? For sure. Frightening? Definitely. Surprising? Not really.

Like Anderson Cooper, I think most of us, if we’re alert, curious people, harbor on the fringes of our awareness the recognition that we are participating in a social and neurological experiment of unprecedented proportions.

Engineering Your Addiction

To entice you to click over and read or watch, here are a few choice excerpts:

[Former Google product manager] Tristan Harris: There’s a whole playbook of techniques that get used to get you using the product for as long as possible. They are programming people. There’s always this narrative that technology’s neutral. And it’s up to us to choose how we use it. This is just not true.


Anderson Cooper: You call this a “race to the bottom of the brain stem.” It’s a race to the most primitive emotions we have? Fear, anxiety, loneliness, all these things?

Tristan Harris: Absolutely. And that’s again because in the race for attention I have to do whatever works. It absolutely wants one thing, which is your attention.


Anderson Cooper: Do you think parents understand the complexities of what their kids are dealing with, when they’re dealing with their phone, dealing with apps and social media?

Tristan Harris: No. And I think this is really important. Because there’s a narrative that, “Oh, I guess they’re just doing this like we used to gossip on the phone,” but what this misses is that your telephone in the 1970s didn’t have a thousand engineers on the other side of the telephone who were redesigning it to work with other telephones and then updating the way your telephone worked every day to be more and more persuasive. That was not true in the 1970s.


Ramsay Brown, cofounder of Dopamine Labs: You don’t pay for Facebook. Advertisers pay for Facebook. You get to use it for free because your eyeballs are what’s being sold there.

Anderson Cooper: You’re almost saying it like there’s an addiction code.

Ramsay Brown: Yeah, that is the case. That since we’ve figured out, to some extent, how these pieces of the brain that handle addiction are working, people have figured out how to juice them further and how to bake that information into apps.


Is resistance futile? That question is largely what inspired me to begin this series… and what I’ll be exploring as we go forth: How can we develop daily mastery of glorious technology, rather than becoming enslaved by it? And, perhaps even more important, how can we teach our children to do the same? Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Attention Deficits & Digital Devotion

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

Wired Wednesdays | Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for Peace


“We all understand the joys of our always-wired world — the connections, the validations, the laughs, the porn, the info. I don’t want to deny any of them here. But we are only beginning to get our minds around the costs, if we are even prepared to accept that there are costs.

“For the subtle snare of this new technology is that it lulls us into the belief that there are no downsides. It’s all just more of everything. Online life is simply layered on top of offline life. We can meet in person and text beforehand. We can eat together while checking our feeds.”

This from Andrew Sullivan in his New York Magazine article, “I Used to Be a Human Being,” chronicling his web addiction, recovery and reflections. The piece is extraordinary… and extraordinarily long. So, I aim to tease out excerpts from it to enrich the Wired Wednesday series.

Today, two aspects of digital dependence of particular concern for parents, related to attention deficits: these can have a deep and direct impact upon your developing child’s brain circuitry.

Digital Dependence and Attention Deficits

Andrew Sullivan:

“But of course, as I had discovered in my blogging years, the family that is eating together while simultaneously on their phones is not actually together. They are, in [writer Sherry] Turkle’s formulation, “alone together.” You are where your attention is. If you’re watching a football game with your son while also texting a friend, you’re not fully with your child — and he knows it. Truly being with another person means being experientially with them, picking up countless tiny signals from the eyes and voice and body language and context, and reacting, often unconsciously, to every nuance. These are our deepest social skills, which have been honed through the aeons. They are what make us distinctively human.”

Gabor Maté in his extraordinary book Scattered: How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It, traces the connection between being present and attending — which he proposes is a fundamental, active form of loving. To attend to someone is to be present for them, attuned and responsive to exactly the kinds of social cues to which Sullivan refers.

Why does this matter all the more for parents? Because this is all about right hemisphere brain development and your child’s future success in pretty much every human endeavor! Through the weeks, months and years of attuned, responsive relational encounters between an infant / toddler / preschooler and a parent, the child’s self-regulating brain systems wire up… to mirror the relational style of the adult!

It is only with the presence of a healthily developed right hemisphere that we are able to be with another — to be present in the full and complete way that is needed by a child.  (We all know that feeling of talking to someone who just isn’t quite fully with us — as in the classic party conversation with someone whose eyes are darting around the room looking for who might be more interesting!)

Thus, suggests Maté, a child displaying the kinds of impaired self-regulating abilities that often lead to an ADD/ADHD diagnosis, for example, has suffered a deficit of attention when it was needed — in the early years. He concludes his book by pointing out that “The origins of the word attend is the Latin tendere, ‘to stretch.’ Attend means to extend, to extend, to stretch toward.

Maté concludes, “If we can actively love, there will be no attention deficit and no disorder.”

Digital Superficiality

I wrote earlier that one “subtle snare” of our digital dependence is that it offers us a digital imitation of reality, a pitfall whose human costs Sullivan deftly traces:

“By rapidly substituting virtual reality for reality, we are diminishing the scope of this interaction even as we multiply the number of people with whom we interact. We remove or drastically filter all the information we might get by being with another person. We reduce them to some outlines — a Facebook “friend,” an Instagram photo, a text message — in a controlled and sequestered world that exists largely free of the sudden eruptions or encumbrances of actual human interaction. We become each other’s “contacts,” efficient shadows of ourselves.”

On a visit to Stanford University, noted child psychologist David Elkind noticed that the architecture students – we’re talking the brightest of the bright! – needed to play with erector sets in class. Why? Because they hadn’t experienced enough hands-on play as children, and as a result, the sophisticated computer drafting technologies weren’t serving them. These play-deprived young adults didn’t have a real-world, three-dimensional frame of reference for the two-dimensional images on the screen. (See my Digital Imitation of Life post for a bit more on this.)

I see this as a deep and dangerous pitfall for a child who spends way more time in two dimensions on a screen than in three dimensions IRL (in real life). Because – as with toxicity tolerances of certain pesticides, etc. – it isn’t merely about quantity of exposure, but also about timing of exposure: an hour in two dimensions has a very different impact on a rapidly-developing brain whose social intelligence circuitry is yet incomplete, highly malleable, and wiring up in response to real-time experiences (be they 3D-human or 2D-digital), than it does on an adult whose social intelligence neural maps are long established and far less malleable. (Though adults’ brains definitely are vulnerable to rewiring in response to digital dependence! A post for another time…)

Sullivan suggests that

“…we are not completely helpless in this newly distracted era. We can, one senses, begin to balance it out, to relearn what we have so witlessly discarded…”

This beginning to balance it out is one of my main objectives for us together in this digital dependence exploration! And so on the two points highlighted in today’s post, two simple invitations for relearning:

  • When you are with another – especially your child – attend, in the fullest sense of that word: be present to take everything in, and to respond
  • Build balance and moderation into your child’s digital diet, making sure that his or her on-screen time is a small fraction of the time spent in hands-on, eyes-on, ears-on real-world engagement. (I’ll be delving in more detail into ideas for “dietary” guidelines on another Wired Wednesday, but for now a good start is to check out my “2 Great Guidelines for Mastery” of last week.)

 To read more about attachment neurobiology and Gabor Maté, see “Presence & Attachment: ADHD Treatment?

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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WIRED WEDNESDAYS: “Don’t Use Your Device When…”

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017


As with most of the principles and ideas in my book, these are oh-so-simple, but not always oh-so-easy!

1: Don’t Use Your Device While Doing Anything Else

To me this seems like a no-brainer, but that turns out to be a highly old-fashioned attitude. The very portability of our devices reinforces our digital dependence by eliminating virtually all barriers to their use–and voilá, a feed-forward loop that has established habitual multi-tasking device usage as the new normal in less than a decade.

Indeed, it wasn’t even ten years ago when you had to go to your desk… or at best to your laptop, sitting over there… to check your email, play solitaire or do that IMDb search. Doing those things was an activity in itself. Today, they have been demoted to a few keystrokes in (or a Siri request of) your handheld device—demi-activities that have insidiously become superimposed onto other activities.

But there’s quite a bit of research to show that multi-tasking is a myth that costs us brain power, and even brain health. In the first chapter of Parenting for Peace I discuss a fascinating study done at Oxford University: they found that when a volunteer subject performed a habitual task on auto-pilot (which is what we do when we multi-task), it resulted in the disengagement of his higher brain centers. This kind of disengagement can lead surprisingly rapidly to diminished brain tissue volume in those areas, which in turn can contribute to cognitive issues and depression. (If you have the book, do read on page 48 about the amazing up-side findings of the Oxford study.)

There’s even research mapping the specific toll taken when we multi-task between two or more screens. (Ignore paragraphs 3 and 4 of this article at your peril; they were a fascinating, cautionary ah-hah for me.)

2: Don’t Use Your Device While in a Conversation

Again, no brainer to me… but damned if I haven’t caught myself sneaking a peek at my phone while my guy is telling me something about his day. (And, vice versa.) How rude is that??! Very. Very very. And yet it has become commonplace—again, the new normal—for someone to engage with a device while (supposedly) engaged in a face-to-face conversation. I like to illustrate the rudeness using this pre-smartphone scenario: Imagine you’re having lunch with a friend and while you’re pouring your heart out to her, she pulls a book out of her bag and starts flipping through it. Ludicrous, yes? Do we think that because it is so small, our engagement with the device won’t be noticed??!

People in Progress

I have recently made a commitment to myself to refrain from breaking my attention from someone who is talking (or listening) to me, in order to glance at my phone or other device.

For one thing, as I discussed last time, regardless of how beguiling it is, what’s on the screen is a counterfeit connection that has actually been found to be associated with feeling ever more isolated. Why would I choose that over a real human who is right here with me seeking to engage?! (I actually think this is a motherlode of a question, to be mined another time.)

It sometimes requires some self-restraint to curb the turn-to-screen impulse, which has become ever more reflexive and automatic. But the entire thrust of my book, my teaching, my coaching comes from a devotion to nurturing healthy brains and social intelligence, so let’s walk my talk, right?

I am constantly reassuring the parents I work with that the Parenting for Peace roadmap isn’t about perfection, not at all. Children don’t learn from our perfection. They learn from our striving—meaning, holding a vision of how we would choose to grow and become fully-expressed, self-mastering individuals.

But make no mistake, your children DO learn from you. In fact, the design for how they will function in the world is mainly based on how you function in the world. And that includes the way in which you demonstrate—that is, teach them—mastery of technology and its devices. My wise colleague Laura puts it so well in just 149 seconds, so I’ll give her the last word today:

Modeling digital mastery for children

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Digital Imitation of Life

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017



When is an apple not really an apple? And what does this silly question have to do with exploring our collective digital dependence? An apple is not really an apple when the 3-dimensional, more or less round-ish, faintly applish-scented, red or green piece of fruit is replaced by something standing in for it—an abstract symbol of some kind. The most common form of abstraction or symbol occurs in written and spoken language: the word “apple” is a symbolic representation of the real thing.


Even an image is an abstraction of the real thing, though more subtly so (which is part of the issue at hand!)

Without getting into all the left- and right-hemisphere brain stuff, we know that in order for the word “apple” to have a true depth of meaning for someone—a richness in their symbolic thinking—they need to have had real, 3-dimensional experience with actual apples: holding them, biting them, sniffing them, perhaps even picking them in an autumn orchard—a richness in their concrete experience with which their abstract thought connects. An aside: This is why I don’t promote academics for young children, when their brain circuitry isn’t yet optimally wired up to process abstractions and symbols. When introduced too early, symbols such as words and numbers are “learned” in a rote, mechanical way. Such learning has little depth of meaning for a child, and leads to a more superficial interaction with words, ideas, and concepts. As child psychologist David Elkind points out, “The language of things must precede the language of words, or else the words don’t mean anything.” Not the best way to begin a child’s lifelong learning, and certainly not conducive to the flexibly innovative, layered thinking capacities needed to forge peace, innovation, and prosperous sustainability!

The Danger of Imitators

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple decades, you’re aware of the health dangers of trans fats—you know, from “partially hydrogenated” oils found in almost all conventional processed foods. But maybe you’re not aware of exactly why they are so bad for you? Leaving the molecular details aside, the process that creates trans fats makes them something your body thinks is food… something that mimics food closely enough that you take it into your digestive process… but something that your body actually does not recognize or know what to do with. But because your body is always in there trying to come through for you, it tries to deal with it anyway. For an excellent description of exactly how your body responds to trans fats, and why it can lead to health problems, check out the middle section of Dr. Bill Sears’ explanation. (I love that he uses the same cars-in-parking-spaces analogy for cell membrane receptors as I wrote about—a year earlier—in the “Cellular Genius” section of Ch. 1 in Parenting for Peace. Great minds and all that…)

Digital Dependence and the Facebook Donut Box

Turns out there is a long list of things that endanger our health by closely resembling substances, processes or energies that are native to our bodies but which in fact are not, and therefore wreak havoc with our wellbeing and our health. And it is around this exact point that I had a big “ah-hah”—a new, key vantage point from which to view digital dependence and consider ways toward healthy mastery of our devices. Just as BPAs (the bad stuff in plastic), PCBs and even ingredients in common personal care products can disrupt health by mimicking our natural hormones, Michael Mendizza posits that “screens are dead but mimic living systems.” “Compared to a living face the same face on a screen is sensory deprivation, containing a distorted fraction of the information and meaning of the living system it mimics. The more we interact with the dead counterfeit the less attuned, sensitive and empathic we are when relating with a real face.” Over the past decade a mountain of evidence has been gathered to show that social media use can be associated with depression; the most recent study was just released, showing that in the U.S., “attachment to devices and the constant use of technology is associated with higher stress levels” for those who reported “constantly or often” checking their email, texts, and social media. Could it be that we are hungry for connection, but trying to gorge on what Mendizza calls a “dead counterfeit” of connection? Could it be that social media (I’m not naming names, which may or may not contain, ironically, the word “book”) are the little chocolate donuts of our collective social landscape? Where memes, emojis and “post engagement” are trans fats that seem to satisfy, yet instead cause suffering? Are we seeking the nourishment of human connection but embracing its virtual abstraction instead?

Viewer Discretion Advised

A student of and collaborator with the late Joseph Chilton Pearce, Mendizza (in his ever-impassioned, heady way) rightly focuses on the neuro-developmental implications of allowing young children a steady diet of technology, of encouraging a child’s brain to wire itself around so much counterfeit abstraction. And because I think his clear prescription points to a fruitful discussion (on future Wednesdays) of how we might  wisely shepherd the next generations away from digital dependence and toward device mastery, I am giving him today’s last word:

The less screen time before the great neural pruning around age eleven the better. Fill their life with safe, challenging natural living experience, open, develop and expand their capacity to imagine by immersing them in story and rich descriptive language, and model empathy for all living things; with this as the dominant influence during the early years let them have all the technology they want as teens and watch them soar.  Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Dataclysm in the Time of Alone Togetherness

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017



I had so many ah-hah moments reading through Narain Jashanmal’s annotated list of “The Best Books on the Impact of Technology on Society” – not even any of the books (yet), but merely his descriptions of them – that I thought I’d pass it directly on to you.


The fact that there are 19 books spotlighted here also humbles me that this territory is so unfathomably vast for a single mere mortal – you or me – to be able to easily navigate and understand.

But I’m wondering if this whole digital dependence issue is sort of like life itself: the thing isn’t to “solve” it or even feel particularly on top of it in its entirety. Maybe the thing is engagement itself: the willingness to be open, curious and present to whatever puzzlements and ah-hah’s about our new wired world that are revealing themselves to us at any given time. And then responding in a thoughtful way.

One of my ah-hahs? The concept that we are all now part of the Attention Economy, explored in one of the 19 books on Jashanmal’s list; hardly a surprise, as we all experience daily the “invasion of the tactics marketers use to harvest our attention, generate demand and, hopefully, help us discover products and services that we actually need.”

Here’s a flavor of this article:

As technology moves from the realm of the visible to the invisible; embedded, pervasive computing that adds intelligence to even the most mundane objects and experiences — there will be an inevitable, ongoing conversation about the consequences, unintended or otherwise.

The books on this list run the gamut, from unabashed enthusiasm for our coming robot overlords, to heartfelt expressions of anxiety about whether what we’re giving up is worth what we’re getting in return.

I like how he has organized this list, beginning with the most recent books and working backward. It really is worth the read.

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Pained in Plain Sight

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017


The question of how we are affected by our handheld technologies is really daunting – so daunting that it is tempting to just do the ostrich thing: put our heads in the sand and not think about the possible downsides of our digital dependence. (Or rather, put our heads down and amuse ourselves with the Candy Crush or Facebook in our hands.)

So I figure I’ll grab for the lowest-hanging fruit first: tangible, visible effects of our digital dependence upon our physical bodies.

A Pain in the Neck?

A few years ago, a private practice neurosurgeon sparked an online news flurry when he published an article about so-called “text neck” – spinal problems caused by the downward-looking posture of time spent on a smartphone. It was his illustration in particular that generated the most buzz, as writers compared 60 lbs. to 4 bowling balls, a half-dozen full grocery bags, or an 8-year-old child… piled atop your forward-tilting head.

If you’ve spent long periods of time looking down at or texting on your device, you probably don’t need convincing that it can result in some pain or stiffness in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to point that out. Along with neck pain, digital devotees can over time develop FHP (forward head posture), a spinal abnormality that can also invite headaches, TMJ, soft tissue and vertebrae problems, and scapula/shoulder issues.

Much Ado About Not Much?

You know, as I consider this 21st-century problem of text neck, what keeps coming to mind are the many 20th-, 19th-, and 1st-century activities for which humans had to look down. Especially reading a book; have parents ever worried that their bookworm kids would develop “book neck”??

The well-respected news magazine The Atlantic (just days after they’d “bitten” on the neurosurgeon’s flashy story) addressed this exact question, about how “our necks are made to bend forward, and it’s not something that’s new to humans. Texting invokes the same posture as holding a book.”

I appreciate the rigor (and humor) with which The Atlantic dug a bit deeper into this question of the spinal costs of our digital dependence. They even consulted with a respected neurosurgeon “for his counterperspective on last week’s text-neck mania.” <   >

The upshot from this brain surgeon is that while good posture is generally good for health, texting isn’t an “imminent threat” to us, whereas, says Dr. Ian Dorward, “People are walking around now while texting, falling into water fountains and lakes and walking into traffic—that’s a real danger.” (And a blog post for another week.)

A Real Study

The Journal of Physical Therapy Science published a study in which they compared changes in posture and respiratory function between two groups of college students – one group who spent less than four hours per day on their smartphones, and one group who spent more than four hours per day on their smartphones.

The more exaggerated changes they found in the higher-use group isn’t surprising; it makes sense that any static activity** involving a head-down, rounded-shoulder position is going to result, over time and repetition, in negative postural changes.

[** Wow, now there’s an oxymoron, am I right — “static activity”?? More on that in a moment.]

I’ll admit that I hadn’t even considered that breathing might be affected by all this, but that actually also makes sense if you compare – right now, do this as you read – how deeply you can breathe in an upright-spine, eyes-forward posture, versus in the classic rounded-over texting posture. That kind of blew me away!

Digital Dependence: Of Greater Risk to Children

Our 21st-century world with all its technological prowess tends to careen ahead with whatever we are capable of inventing, while our understanding of (or curiosity about) the implications tends to lag quite a bit behind. (A great example of this is the tangles of ethical riddles that began revealing themselves years after the early advent of reproductive technologies that enabled IVF, 3rd-party conceptions with donor eggs or sperm, freezing of embryos, etc. I digress.)

So it may be years – even decades – before we have compiled a body of scientific data on the effects of our digital dependence, and particularly its effects on children. Therefore, I think parents would be wise to keep in mind an important biological principle: Children’s dynamic growth and development makes them more susceptible to all environmental effects.

Whereas your fully-developed neck (cervical spine) may get stiff or sore after really prolonged smartphone use, your young child’s spine and nervous system are far more malleable and thus vulnerable, given their in-progress status: they are still forming!

Which brings me to another biological principle that every wise parent might keep in mind when making choices for their child: Beginning in the womb and continuing throughout childhood, a child’s brain and nervous system develop in adaptive response to their environment. Nature arranged it that way to give young creatures the best possible chance of surviving well!

So if a child is living in a world that features a lot of digital devices, it makes sense from a strictly biological-evolutionary standpoint that his or her body should adapt itself to be most suited to thrive in the midst of that reality: for example, rounded shoulders and more dexterous thumbs (to the detriment of other hand musculature, say some experts). In fact, one nickname for children born from the mid-1990s onward is “the thumb generation”!

So What Do We Do??

Parents who are concerned about this subject – and I do think it is wise to be cautious while avoiding panic – can find a helpful clue in the oxymoron I mentioned above in red: digital activities are usually static when it comes to moving the body.

And, bodies are meant to move. They function best when they do so consistently and frequently.

And, it’s healthy to aim for balance, moderation and mastery when it comes to environmental influences on our kids (which include food, clothing, household atmosphere, school, music, TV, movies), and like it or not, in today’s world digital devices are one of the most prevalent environmental influences going.

As parents, we can model mastery of our devices rather than enslavement to them. (This will be an ongoing theme that I intend to develop and elaborate upon as this series unfolds.) So in the case of their painful effects on us, let’s show our kids that we respect our bodies enough to make it a top priority to keep them feeling good. Make it clear – through actions, not so much through words or lectures – that your body’s wellbeing (and theirs) is an even higher priority than your digital dependence.

Let your child see you moderating your use of technology — “Mama’s stepping away from the tablet…” — and mixing it up with healthy movement, including stretching exercises designed to counteract “text neck.” You’ll find some helpful stretches here.

Make some family fun of it – put on a “Ditch the Device” playlist and see who can look funniest doing neck stretches, shoulder shrugs and finger flexes!


Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Exploring Our Digital Dependence

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017


Digital-dependence LET’S BEGIN

If you harbor vague concerns about your (and your children’s) growing digital dependence, I’m right there with you.

If you fear that the issue of device devotion is so complicated you can’t get a firm grasp on it, I’m with you.

If it all seems just too… inevitable and insurmountable, yep, I’m there as well.

But like a squirrel on a mission, I’ve been stashing away lot of good stuff on digital dependence and now I think it’s time to just dive in — into the foggy, messy fray, without any real plan, outline or idea of how this blog series will look. So here goes.

The only plan-ish part is that I’m committing to post something every Wednesday on some aspect of this topic. I’ll look at different angles on the role(s) that our devices play in our lives, how they help, and how they may be hurting.

And probably much more important, how we can develop mastery over our technology so it can do what it was designed to do: to make our lives easier and richer!

The Rub

Here’s the conundrum, particularly for the Parenting for Peace objective of fostering vibrant social intelligence in ourselves and our coming generations: While technology has careened forward and changed our world dramatically, even in just the past twenty years, human beings haven’t much changed — in how we’re built or how we function — in thousands of years!

We’re essentially running hypermodern software programs on hardware that wasn’t built for it.

My intention with this weekly series is to take my head out of the proverbial sand around the digital dependence issue, and thoughtfully consider, sliver by sliver, what Social Intelligence author Daniel Goleman calls “inexorable technocreep.”

A Vast Territory to Be Covered

I have a file folder of clippings going all the way back to 2011, when I had just turned the Parenting for Peace manuscript in to my publisher and it was too late to add it. My folder bulges with flashes of insights into how our digital dependence is redefining our attention spans and our love lives, how it impacts our driving ability and our school performance, and ways in which it is changing the architecture of our brains – like  this chilling explanation of how fMRIs show we quite literally love our smartphones.

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and make no mistake: I’m not one of those stuffy oldsters pining away for a nostalgic, over-romanticized past. But I am a fan of self-determination and empowerment. I believe in holding the reins on whatever brain changes you decide (YOU decide!) to consciously make.

Solutions for Our Digital Dependence

The most important thing I want to accomplish with this Wired Wednesdays exploration is to help you do just that: take up the reins of mastery on this powerful technology so it will work for you, not on you.

I have discovered some wonderful tools and resources for putting yourself into the driver’s seat on this issue of digital dependence – for you and your children. So instead of feeling like you’re in a runaway vehicle, careening way off the path of where you envisioned being, you can use that power to take you exactly where you want to be.

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on (most) Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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How Boredom Builds Brains… and Screens Can Drain Brains!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

(Part 3 of my 5-part series at I’m not talking about the deep, serious kind of boredom associated with neglect, poverty and anguish. I’m talking about that “I’m not being distracted / entertained / stimulated at this very instant and I don’t know what to do with myself” kind that I fear is becoming more and more common.

I’ll let you in on a little behind-the-scenes shock I had while searching for a photo to illustrate this article. I searched the term “child relaxing” and I kept finding these gorgeous pastoral scenes of a child in the middle of a lovely meadow… using a laptop!! Or a child kicking back in a hammock… using an iPad! 

And why would that distress me? Read on…



The Debate Over Handheld Devices for Babies & Children

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

BabyOnIPadThere has been a hurricane of cyber-buzz this past week over a HuffPo piece entitled, “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should Be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12.” It went viral, natch.

What I want to say about that piece is
a) it is a comprehensive collection of research that should be of critical interest to parents
b) I am not the type to seek bans on such things; rather, I advocate that we as humans develop mastery and dominion over these creations of ours. Let our Frankenstein’s monsters work for us rather than against us.

As my daughter Eve once said, “We’ve all been baptized in technology.” Boy, did that spin me around and send me thinking. I wrote the following Parenting for Peace passage in reference to birth technology, but it totally applies to these questions about handheld devices:

Yes, most of us have been baptized in technology, so let us embrace the blessings of our modern brilliance, which was originally meant to bring freedom. Nothing has the power to control us once we can name the players and the game, once we can free ourselves from the prevailing fear-based group think and become capable of making choices that are in the best peacemaking interests of ourselves, our children, and the vibrant future of humanity. 

{Read more about this debate at} 

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