When used correctly, technology can be a great way to expand frontiers and increase knowledge. Often, however, it results in a lack of attention and a tendency to ignore what’s really important. While it’s true that no parent should expect his or her children to focus clearly at every moment, you may be able to get help for your kids through the doctrine of mindfulness.
Mindfulness allows a person to completely and objectively focus on what’s happening at any given time. It also improves curiosity and openness, helping you and your kids stay open to new ideas and experiences. Being mindful lets you experience every part of your day fully, something that many technological devices discourage.
Being connected all the time has its advantages, but it can also reduce mindfulness. Since many mobile devices are all about constant information flow and connection with others, they encourage you to focus on them at all times, even when you should be doing something else. That leads to a distracted way of going through life that damages many families. This kind of mindlessness affects parents and children alike.
Instead of focusing on the interactions of the family, you and your children may find yourselves spending too much time thinking about posting online or checking your favorite social media feeds. The result is a combination of inattentiveness and hyper vigilance that makes it very hard to fully live in the present.
Every family should take time to be mindful on a regular basis. This lets you turn off the constant onslaught of information and sit together or alone as individuals in the moment. While the process may be very uncomfortable at first, especially for children who are used to receiving constant stimulation, it can result in a much more unified family. Consider walks in a natural environment, reading or a similar activity to encourage mindfulness without the involvement of technology.
When you allow your family to spend all their time interacting with technology instead of with one another, no one ever gets the chance to recuperate and be completely absorbed in the moment. It’s impossible for kids or adults to recharge their mental and emotional batteries, which can lead to irritability and poor communication. Everyone needs to experience the satisfying feeling that comes from being completely engaged in a specific moment.
In fact, recent studies suggest that taking time to be mindful has a huge number of measurable benefits. These include increased ability to deal with negative experiences, greater overall happiness and satisfaction, and improved feelings of well-being. In many people, negative feelings such as depression, stress and anxiety decrease greatly after a program of mindfulness, while physical indicators such as immune system strength go up.
A wandering mind can leave you feeling anxious and stressed, while focusing on a task can give you a better feeling about yourself and your life overall. Distractions have actually been shown to make people much less happy.
Why is this a particular danger for children? Most modern adults deal with technology regularly, but they spent their formative years with more opportunities for mindfulness. While distractible adults certainly suffer more challenges when it comes to parenting, they aren’t in danger the way many children could be.
Over the course of the past decade, technology has grown impressively, infiltrating every aspect of daily life. Modern children are “digital natives,” eminently adapted to the world around them. They have never experienced the same opportunities to live in the moment that were available to their parents.
While kids and technology aren’t necessarily a bad combination, it’s important to pay attention to how your children are using their technology if you want to be successful as a parent. It’s easy for the always-connected child to mistake stimulation for the happiness that comes from mindfulness and real human connections.
There’s nothing wrong with children spending their time learning and connecting online, but many have lost the opportunity to delight in life’s little things. They may not truly enjoy reading a paper book, smelling flowers on a walk outdoors, or seeing wildlife in its natural environment. For many of them, online conversation has even taken the place of normal discussion, making it hard to talk together with friends and family members.
If you’re dedicated to effective parenting, you shouldn’t be willing to let your kids engage in activities that reduce their overall happiness and productivity. It’s important to limit children’s access to technology, since they don’t have the experience or maturity required to control their use on their own.
Encouraging Mindfulness in a Technological World
While it’s clear that kids and technology can’t be allowed to interact without restrictions, it’s also not possible to force the issue. If you try commanding your kids to be mindful, you may experience their resentment. This isn’t the kind of thing you can make happen just by stating it. Instead, you need to give your children opportunities to be mindful on a regular basis.
That means taking steps to be mindful yourself and creating times and places to disconnect from technology. This parenting strategy requires looking at your family’s routine and identifying the times when you’re all the most mindless in relation to technology. If you all end up sitting around with connected devices after dinner, or even at the table, it’s time to make a change.
Once you’ve identified problem times where you and your children find yourselves distracted and overwhelmed by information, it’s time to look for opportunities to change that. Everyone’s day includes opportunities to be mindful, many of which may not be actively exploited. Possibilities include meal-time, exercise, walking, working on homework and time that could be spent with family.
Spend a little time talking to your kids about being present and focused on what they’re doing. Ask your children not to multitask while doing homework or spending time with the family. Explain how multitasking actually hurts productivity, and be willing to do the same things yourself. One good option is to make a rule that all devices must be shut off at dinner or during other important times.
You can also make opportunities that help reinforce mindfulness for everyone. Go camping without any technological devices or spend a day with everything shut off. Consider implementing family reading time, which allows all of you to be engaged in a book. This kind of parenting is more labor intensive and difficult than simply allowing everyone to be switched on, but it yields better benefits in the long run. You’ll be surprised at how much more engaged and less stressed you and your children feel!
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