Wired Wednesday: Saving Our Smartphone Brains


Adoption Insight by Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for PeaceWhen my book Parenting for Peace came out in 2012, the handheld device revolution hadn’t yet reached its tipping point, so smartphone brain wasn’t yet a thing.

The screens I discussed in my book were DVDs in the backs of SUV seats, video games, computer screens, television and other such notions that have become quaint-sounding in just a few years.

But even before the smartphone brain era had taken hold, I posed in my book the idea that we’re faced with a “Peaceful Parenting Conundrum” that goes as follows:

  • Technology has careened forward and changed our world dramatically, even in just the past fifty years; and…
  • Human beings haven’t much changed—in how we’re built or how we function—in thousands of years!

One of the most urgent questions for parents today is, How do we most gracefully and fruitfully navigate these dual realities?!

One of the most powerful places to begin is with ourselves, because our children are always watching us, imitating us and learning how to be in the world. Their brains wire up to mirror ours, and smartphone brain isn’t the goal. (Some basics about that are here.)

Kevin Roose’s recent excellent firsthand essay for The New York Times is also a must-read when it comes to recognizing our device dependence and recovering from smartphone brain. It’s full of practical ideas and insights. As for the conundrum, he writes,

“Unlike alcohol or opioids, phones aren’t an addictive substance so much as a species-level environmental shock. We might someday evolve the correct biological hardware to live in harmony with portable supercomputers that satisfy our every need and connect us to infinite amounts of stimulation. But for most of us, it hasn’t happened yet.”

His essay is long. Yes, it requires patience and an attention span—two qualities that erode in smartphone brain. But it is entertaining and important—two qualities that don’t usually go together (unless you’re watching The Late Show with Stephen Colbert). Check it out!

Wired Wednesdays | Marcy Axness, PhD | Parenting for Peace

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