Mindfulness: An Antidote to Too Much Screen Time


We pow-wowed with Mindhood.com to learn more about how mindfulness can help us control technology and offset the harmful effects of screen time.

Mindfulness is the act of being involuntarily distracted from a voluntary action and then returning to the voluntary action.

As we practice the conscious act of returning to the things we want to be doing, we strengthen our ability to do so.

For instances: Suppose you are making dinner and you check your smartphone for a recipe, which quickly becomes checking email, watching a quick YouTube video and messaging your spouse. When you make the conscious decision to return to making dinner, you are practicing mindfulness. When a student is writing a paper and the ding of their phone distracts them to replying, checking Instagram and watching YouTube, they need to learn how to return to writing the paper.

Some research suggests that based on brain development, the brains of those under 25 are not developed enough to engage in impulse control and executive functioning. Neuroscience also suggests that the more we are distracted by those dings, the more we strengthen the neural connections to be distracted, resulting in shorter attention spans.

Practicing mindfulness is important, but more important is to remove as many of those distractions as possible and to be aware of the potential to be distracted.

ENCOURAGING “MINDFUL” USE OF TECHNOLOGY.

It’s no wonder kids (and adults) find it challenging to disconnect. If you haven’t successfully found JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out), you most likely suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Certainly most teens do. In many instances, it’s not us but Persuasive Design. Technology is hard to control when it’s designed for the “Economy of Attention.” But there are things we can do.

  • Don’t turn into Pavlov’s dog and jump for your device every time it dings, beeps and tweets. Make a conscious decision to check texts, emails or other apps. And teach your kids to as well. Go as far as giving them words, “Now, I am going to check my texts.” Set a time limit (10-20 minutes) and stick to it. Then walk away and engage in another tech-free activity. And leave your phone alone.

  • Help kids understand the draw. Watch this video.

  • Speaking of time limits. Encourage kids to take breaks from technology use. Think in terms of time on and time off (for example: 20 minutes on, 60 minutes off).

  • Remind yourself and your kids that “people should always come first.” Close the laptop. Put away (not just down) the device. Especially at the dinner table, in the car and at parties. Consider a “Cell Motel” (central basket) for devices at events at your home. Make it fun. Tuck those devices in with a blanket if you need to. They’ll be ok.

  • “Screens are small, the world is big.” Snap a few pictures. Choose a Pandora station. Then put the device down and look around. Out the window. The 3D real world is 100 times better than a 2D world through a tiny screen. Dare you take time to daydream!!

  • Make IRL (In Real Life) a priority - Teach kids moderation and the importance of balance in their virtual and actual lives. Make time for face-to-face interactions and outdoor play. Restrict violent video games but allow virtual sports, particularly if they take up a real one.

  • Let kids be bored and encourage conversation. Allowing your kids to be bored enough will fire up their imaginations, says Sherry Turkle, Ph.D.. “The capacity to be bored is so important because it is tied to the capacity to look within to an enlivened and enlivening self.” Boredom also inspires kids to investigate and develop other interests, author Nick Carr adds.