Friday, September 19, 2014

Teens and Technology

Teens and Technology are wedded. They go hand in hand… iPhone to iPhone… and much of what one hears about is only about the dangers and negative aspects of this marriage, which are valid and well documented. But, there are also positive occurrences as teens themselves attempt to remedy these issues.

Teens from Milton Academy are making a difference in light of the tragic death of their friend Merritt Levitan with the campaign, “TextLess Live More.” Merritt, on a cross-country bike trip, died when a texting driver hit her. In honor of Merritt’s memory and to fight against this deadly habit, students at Milton Academy began to institute a day a month where all technology was suspended for the day. In their words, “Our goal is to decrease excessive phone use and encourage people to disconnect from the virtual world and reattach themselves to the real world. Hopefully, our practice of “disconnecting” will translate to more substantial real-world relationships and also prevent dangerous habits like texting and driving.” At present there are 50 other schools and colleges participating. The goal this year is 500, and the kick off is October 6. The Merritt’s Waywebsite has specific instructions for students who wish to institute "TextLess, Live More" Days in their own schools or colleges. One can learn about this on Facebook as well.

When teens themselves ask their peers to become aware, evaluate and moderate their technology habits and behaviors, it can be a very effective campaign for change. At this point, it is not an older generation instructing a younger one, but rather a group of peers putting their beliefs and values into action with their friends and classmates.

This proactive approach to the deadly consequences of texting and driving is a superb model for seeking remedies to other issues, concerns and questions about teens and their use of technology. In essence the proactive statement could be "Live More." Ben Snyder, Head of the Upper School at Noble and Greenough School made an interesting comment by expanding on the TextLess, Live More theme. He said, “I kept coming back to thinking that if we all texted (and “teched”) less, we would all live more (and better).

We need solutions, and I believe we are going to find them, oftentimes from teens themselves which includes ways for teens to use mindfulness and present moment living to counteract some of the ways technology alters the present into mindless distractions. Thus the statement "Live More" could be expanded to Live More in the Moment.

In my newly named Teens and Technology Blog, the nouns teens and technology go together when we look at teens’ relationship with technology and the propensity for some of their lives to be controlled or governed by these digital devices. Technology and cell phone addiction is on the rise, as well as the negative impact such use can have on teens’ attention, memory, multi-tasking,anxiety, depression and an inability to communicate face to face compounded by the excessive use of texting.

In a recent article, “Is Technology Making Your Children Mindless Instead of Mindful?” Jim Taylor, an expert on teens and technology, states that moments of full engagement in an experience in life bring the greatest happiness, while distracted moments such as those when we are in our technology and not present are not only not as happy, but “even worse, in their always-connected, constantly distracted lives, children may not learn what real happiness is and where it comes from,” and he goes on to say, “Children have come to mistake stimulation, momentary pleasure, and that neurochemical high gained from being always connected for real happiness.” Thus, more research points to mindfulness techniques, flow experiences and positive technology as an anecdote to the distraction addictions of technology.

It seems clear that there are many concerns, worries, and alarming statistics about technology, but there are also strategies, counterbalances and hope for this distraction addiction that has become ubiquitous in today’s youth culture.


  1. Hi Susan,

    I just read your blog dated 9/19/14, and I liked what I read. I have one quick question in regards to driving and texting. I know this issue "Teens and Technology" is about a lot more than just the issue of driving & texting but I was wondering if there is an effort, a thought or any discussion about using technology to disable texting while driving? Seams like a very simple solution!


  2. Wayne,

    It is quite fortuitous that you asked this question. A friend of mine's company does just that, and I'm going to learn more about it soon. I'll get back to you!


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