Parents can often find themselves more distracted by their devices than their teens. This is especially true during the slow moments throughout our day. Slow moments are those moments where you can be with your thoughts and feelings, instead of pulling out your phone to check email, read the news, or scroll through your Facebook feed.
By habitually reaching for our devices during these moments of solitude, we miss out on valuable opportunities to know ourselves better. And you are modeling your teens relationship with technology by your own relationship with technology.
So what can we do?
Small changes towards being more mindful of your relationship with technology can improve the satisfaction and quality of your life as well as in your teens.
Being mindful can be as simple as focusing on your breath, noticing the sounds, smells, or what is going on in your body. Being mindful allows us to more clearly see the world around us, reduce stress levels, and develop resilience to life’s difficult moments. And by practicing mindfulness we become better Digital Mentors, modeling for our kids how to give space to our inner experience which ultimately leads to healthier relationships with others.
The satisfactions of solitude
First, It’s important to remember that we are all in this together. We live in a culture where a veil of productivity and successful “multitasking” is celebrated, and the draw of social connection through texting and online is hard to ignore.
As Markham Heid explains in his article for TIME, “Combine the sudden beep with the implicit promise of new social info, and you have a near-perfect, ignorable stimulus that will pull your focus away from whatever task your brain is working on.”
But in this attention economy, it is important to take time to slow down and be present with our own thoughts, without reaching for the distraction of technology. MIT researcher Sherry Turkle says that these moments of solitude allow us to know ourselves better, which is an important part of having fulfilling relationships with others. In Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, she says, “If we don’t have experience with solitude – and this is often the case today – we start to equate loneliness and solitude. This reflects the impoverishment of our experience. If we don’t know the satisfactions of solitude, we only know the panic of loneliness.”
In today’s hyperconnected world, Turkle says if we don’t teach our children how to be comfortable being alone, they will learn to be lonely and rely on the distraction of technology. Part of your role as an Emotion Coach and Digital Mentor is to model the importance of slow moments and to create space for difficult or uncomfortable emotions.
Experiencing your emotions
Sometimes uncomfortable emotions will rise to the surface in these moments of solitude. Reaching for our devices when these emotions come up prevents us from experiencing the richness of the full human experience. As comedian Louis CK explained during a recent interview on smartphones, “Because we don’t want that first bit of sad, we push it away. [But] you never feel completely sad or completely happy, you just feel kinda satisfied with your product.”
– Aziza Seykota
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