With so much conversation about screen time for kids of all ages, it’s also useful to think and talk about adults’ screen time. Adults model, but not always well, screen time habits for the young people in their families. When asked, most 21st Century children can share all sorts of stories about how much time their parents spend on their devices, even at inappropriate or inopportune times.
In his New York Magazine article, I Used to Be a Human Being, writer and contemporary thinker Andrew Sullivan contemplates the overwhelming “full immersion” that he and many adults experience with the online world.
As an online personality who consumes and creates content non-stop, Sullivan describes how as his “living in the web” lifestyle has increased, his many other fulfilling activities have gone by the wayside. Even when he tried to connect with a friend, read a book, or do some other off-screen activity, he could not finish. Even our mid-day cups of coffee and tea are frequently enjoyed with a screen and the content it offers rather than with other people.
The essay also shares Andrew Sullivan’s personal experience, describing why it’s important for adults to get away from connected activities, in his case, by attending a meditation retreat. The article is filled with observations, thoughts, and ideas about living well or not-so-well in our now digital world. It’s not just how much screen interaction is acceptable, but also whether too much can affect a person’s health and wellness.
Perhaps, and from my educator’s perspective, the best sentence in the entire article is Sullivan’s comment, “Multitasking is a mirage,” noting that a person cannot pay attention to two things at the same time. Even if an individual thinks he can, it’s not possible. Read my post about neuroscientist Dr. John Medina’s view on multitasking, who points out again and again that multitasking is a myth and that what the brain is really doing is taking time to switch back and forth — inefficiently — between the various activities.
This is a thoughtful and to-the-point essay, interestingly from a professional author and terrific writer, one with whom I do not always agree. His essay can be a useful and productive tool that can help adults or parents in a school community begin a conversation about their own screen time activities.