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I’ve been reading quite a bit about the addictive nature of our digital devices. Should I be concerned about my kids? Myself?

People who study human behavior as it relates to technology think so. They point to dopamine, a chemical released by the brain to signal pleasure, as the likely culprit. Like the sound of a beloved coming through the door, the blinking lights and pings of our phones promise something good is about to happen. Unlike the sounds of that door, however, our phone’s reward—those endless texts or pictures or posts—most often don’t live up to the promise. But we still reach for them, letting them interrupt our conversations, keep us from sleep and work, and, some would say, keep us from being creative.

So what are we to do? It’s not as if these devices are going away anytime soon. Nor should they.

At a family gathering recently I asked my nieces and nephews for their ideas. Once they got past putting the onus on parents who don’t limit their kid’s time on these devices—including their own, presumably—they had some thoughts:

  • Put everyone’s devices—including Mom’s and Dad’s—on the kitchen counter before going to bed.
  • Go outside. It’s hard to text when you’re riding a bike or climbing a tree.
  • At gatherings of family or friends, ask everyone to put their phone in a basket when they come in the door.
  • Turn off sound and light notifications. Decide for yourself when you want to take the time to see what’s come in since you last checked.
  • Designate a day a week or weekend when you don’t use your phone at all—a digital detox of sorts.

During this conversation, I noticed no one checked their phones and all were actively participating. It seems we’re all aware of the problem and agree we need to do something about it. Talking about it—online or off—might be a start.

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