There are lessons here for parents, but also for leaders.
First, model the behaviors you hope to see. If you’re forever on your iPhone, or watching TV, your kids get that message. If you’re always looking over at your computer screen when you’re meeting with people, they too get the message.
Second, recognize that these technologies are as addictive as any other drug or diversion that provides an instant hit of pleasure and/or an escape from pain.
“Sometimes I’ll say: I need to stop this and do my schoolwork, but I can’t,” Vijay Singh tells Ritchel, echoing his friends. Parents must set firm boundaries restricting the use of electronics.
It’s not about banning them, which is unrealistic and extreme, but rather about helping kids to regularly experience the deeper satisfaction that comes from becoming truly absorbed in and mastering a complex challenge.
Leaders, meanwhile, need to encourage their employees to turn off email entirely at times, in order to focus uninterrupted attention on their most difficult tasks.
Third, parents and teachers alike ought to encourage a new way of working. Whether it’s for homework or for office work, the best way to get things done is in periods of uninterrupted work no longer than 90 minutes, followed by true renewal.
We embed, contextualize, and synthesize learning during downtime – which is what we’ve sacrificed in our addiction to constant connection.
The new technologies aren’t going away, nor should they. The real issue is whether we can learn to manage them more skillfully, so they don’t end up managing us. Who’s going to lead the way?