Do You Need to Put on Your Technology Training Wheels Again?

by Alli Polin on February 3, 2015

Are you in control of your technology or does it control you?

It was two hours before 2015 and my 11 year old daughter’s friend taught her a nifty trick – she can text on her iPod.  My 9 year old son was thrilled to get into the action too.  I thought that they’d be out of primary school before I had to teach them good tech habits, but my daughter has put on her technology training wheels, long before I was ready, and is taking them out for a spin. 

My son swears that “lots of 3rd graders” in his class have Instagram… can he?

My daughter is sure that she’s responsible and all of her friends are on Instagram…. so… can she?

No!  

I thought that by denying Instagram, setting strict rules about iPod usage and removing Safari I’d be able to stay in “control” (yeah right, I know) of their screen time.  Now my daughter’s iPod is her constant companion.  Music and games have taken a backseat to the pings and bings of her non-stop incoming messages. 

I think what drives me the most nuts is when her friend calls her on the phone and asks if she can get her iPod so she can text her.  Hello???  The phone works wonders for communication – give it a try. 

This is a stressful learning process for my kids and for us too. We’re talking about their answers and our answers dozens of times a day as texts arrive in record numbers.  We recognize that the technology training wheels have to come off at some point and then they’re on their own.

What do you do when your phone bings with a text and you’re eating dinner?  

Watching a movie?

Doing homework?

In the end, they’ll grow up and get to choose every single time. No Mom or Dad to draw the line in the sand.  Our hope is that good habits now will serve them later too at the office, in their relationships and in life.

Everywhere we look it’s clear that phone addictions are rampant among adults.  The question we’re asking is how can we teach our children to be more responsible technology enabled citizens who can balance the real-world all around them with their engagement with a phone screen?  It starts with being a role model.  There’s no room for do as I say, not as I do. 

By the way, it’s not only parents showing kids how to engage on technology… it happens in every workplace across the world and has an enormous impact on the org culture.  Hello leaders… you’re role models too. 

Ask yourself… what’s your go-to response?

Are you expected to return a text or email within minutes?  Is your team?

Does your workplace rely on IM and text 24/7?  Are you shooting off quick questions at midnight?

Is this really the way you want to live and lead?

Are you leading the way with technology in your home and in your workplace?

>> Leaders know that text is not a replacement for voice to voice or face to face. 

>> Leaders believe that technology enables connection… it’s not the end all and be all way to connect.

>> Leaders choose to be present where they are without having their eyes constantly glued to a phone screen. 

Is it tough?  You bet. 

Does every beep sound like a siren alerting you to a potential earth shattering message?  If you said yes, you’re not alone. 

Can the next generation of leaders learn that technology is amazing but not more amazing than being present where you are?  Not without our help.  

Raise your hand if you need to put back on your technology training wheels too

Maybe it’s time we all put back on our technology training wheels to think about how we want to engage on technology and when the phone trumps a text and when meeting face-to-face is the best solution.  If your blood pressure rises every time your phone is farther than arm’s reach… go back to the basics and ask yourself if this is how you really want to live.

Break the Frame – Tech Addiction Break Through Challenge:

I admit, I’m not a perfect role model in this case… especially with Twitter too.  However, I learned an important lesson in 2014…

  • I turned off all Twitter notifications and I survived. 
  • I’ve left my phone at home and I survived. 
  • My phone battery died and I didn’t frantically look for a plug, I survived. 

Here’s YOUR challenge:

Turn off your phone, leave it in a drawer or in another room.  Focus on the people in front of you and watch the magic happen. 

Does technology 24/7 serve you or are you getting served?

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman February 3, 2015 at 6:38 am

I am raising my hand!

(Yes I’ve taken vacation without Social Media and not only survived, I revived!) But I need a 9-step program when it’s at my fingertips! As you and I have visited before, finding the balance between the real world and the virtual one is tough. (Especially when both result in meaningful relationships.)

Thank you for the tought-provoking post!

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 2:49 am

It is a tough balance! I’ve also discovered that when I’m staring at a screen, thinking I’m engaging with what’s most important, I’m missing a lot of remarkable things right in front of me.

Thanks, Chery!

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Jon Mertz February 3, 2015 at 7:27 am

Yes, I am raising my hand too, Alli. Unplugging raises the importance of making connections nearby. Also, remembering technology is an enabler of connections is vital. Technology is a wonderful thing but we cannot make it central to our life. Community, converations, and compassion all require our mindful, active presence. Thanks! Jon

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 2:50 am

When technology facilitates meaningful conversation, I’m all for it! The problem for me is when it becomes mindless… flick to Facebook, check in on Twitter… killing time instead of living.

Thanks for your insights, Jon!

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Terri Klass February 3, 2015 at 8:52 am

Love this post, Alli! Technology is only as helpful as the person who controls it.

This is my concern. Will the next generation, let alone millennials, be able to converse with each other in a comfortable way? Will they be so reliant on technology that face to face connections become painful?

Your critical point about parents being role models as well as leaders in the workplace is so critical. If we can put down our devices and help our kids have more play dates and use the phone in a comprehensible way, we will be empowering them to have a balance. Technology is fabulous and here to stay. Let’s just make sure they don’t lose their people skills.

Thanks Alli!

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 2:53 am

I hear ya! I’m watching the post-millennial generation and the way they interact with technology and it’s definitely taking me out of my comfort zone. I try to say yes when my kids ask if they can ride bikes or play at a friends house however… I’ve seen them all gathered around the iPad or engaged in parallel play on tech far too often.

The best we can do for our children and our teams is to be a role model for healthy choices and behaviors that put people skills in the forefront of every interaction.

Thanks for your comment and forwarding the conversation!

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Roger Veliquette February 3, 2015 at 9:20 am

I agree we need to model proper use of technology both to our kids and to our teams.

Transformation stems from critical reflection. And, as disciplined as I think I am on the subject of technology, I know I sometimes fail to put the people in front of me as my first priority. Generally, at home, I switch my phone to silent and leave it in a different room.

Enjoyed the post!

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 2:56 am

Roger,
Like you, I know the right thing to do, I know what I want to do and sometimes I still have my computer open on my lap or my eyes on my phone when I should be with the people in the room with me.

Love that you put your phone on silent and leave it in another room. During the day, I leave my phone and iPad in another room so I can get my work done and stay focused (then again, I’m on the computer a lot too!)

Technology has also been an amazing lifeline for me living in such a remote location. I can see my far away family, engage with my friends and talk to clients while looking them in the eye. That would have been impossible a decade ago.

Definitely a transformation…

Thanks for your comment and connection too!!

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Samantha Hall February 3, 2015 at 9:23 am

I TOTALLY agree!

In fact I think it was Jon that I told last month that I was considering the idea of unplugging one day a week because of info overload and stimulation. I don’t like the way it makes me feel.

I use technology to MAKE connections….that I want to actually lead to something meaningful and real. Not as a substitute for REAL.

And when the results still lack REAL (although I love all of my wonderful cyber friends but y’all live FAR AWAY! haha) is the price I have to pay to be ONLINE every day worth it? So far…not yet!

I can afford to not be on social media EVERY DAY.

Thanks for sharing my friend! xo

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 2:59 am

I totally get the info overload and have written about it a few times. It can get insane.

When technology facilitates connection, that’s the BEST. I’m still so confused how groups of people can be out to dinner together and glued to their phones and only seeing the world through their camera lens.

I am on social media most days (not every) and I show up because of the connections which mean far more to me than marketing…

Thanks as always for your insightful comment!

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Karin Hurt February 3, 2015 at 10:16 am

Technology can be such a blessing and a curse. I find that I do most of my social media in chunks. I do my commenting in blocks and my twitter responses. And yes, turning off twitter and facebook notification noises is vital in my mind.

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 3:00 am

It was a good day when I turned off Twitter notifications and I refuse to install Facebook chat or messenger or whatever it’s called on any of my mobile devices.

Like you, I work in blocks… to do it all day every day nothing else would ever get done.

Thanks, Karin!

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LaRae Quy February 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Great advice, Alli!

I went twitterless for several weeks myself recently and it was liberating! It truly felt like a real vacation instead of spending an hour catching up with social media after a long day of sightseeing…I was liberated 🙂

I highly recommend it!

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 3:02 am

Woo hoo for vacation without the obligation of tweeting!!

When I went away a few weeks ago, I actually had a post or two ready to go and decided not to post them because I knew it would be tough to respond on here and on social sites.

We all need to decide why we show up and for most of us, I hope a key component is engagement. Still, it should not get in the way of engaging in our whole, full, juicy lives.

Here’s to more liberation! Thanks, LaRae!

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John Bennett February 3, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Here’s an observation: I “follow” a number of interesting Twitter accounts – ones that I often gain new insights from or new sources. But I don’t have anywhere near the numbers most others have. And when I refresh my messages, typically they represent ones sent in the most recent 20-25 minutes!!!! IMPLICATION: Unless I’m willing to constantly stare at the Twitter screen, I WILL MISS MESSAGES, undoubtedly some “good” ones!!! I refuse to be a slave to my iPad / iPhone, let alone any app.

So I miss them – AND I accept this easily and calmly… It is the realization that has enabled me to tell others (retired, no employer boss and wife is face to face 🙂 ) that they need to CALL or STOP BY if it’s important. Otherwise, if it’s Twitter, use DM; and if email or Facebook, LinkedIn, …., I’ll see it but not guaranteeing when.

My face-to-face / phone interactions and my responsibilities are far more important!!!!

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 3:06 am

We do have to get ok with missing some things. We can’t be “on” everywhere all the time… at home, at work and online. We need to make choices.

I appreciate that you’re a role model for prioritizing living over catching every last tweet. Every second, there are 6,000 new tweets. Literally. Each day there are 500,000,000+ tweets. We’re all going to miss something, might as well be intentional with our choices.

Appreciate your willingness to share and how much you always add to the conversation! Thanks, John!

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Brenda Lee February 4, 2015 at 11:40 am

Great post Alli! There are times that I wish we are still in the old days. No cells, no computers, and where we actually had to talk to people instead of texting. Think of all the marriages/relationships that have been ruined by technology. 😉 It’s a crazy world we live in.

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 8:42 pm

I think I’m lucky my husband doesn’t have a cell (he’s probably one of the few people around with no smartphone!) but we do invest too much time staring at our screens instead of looking into each other’s eyes.

A big time crazy world. With you!

thanks!

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David Tumbarello February 4, 2015 at 6:05 pm

I enjoy your post and your graphic stories. I wonder about generations. We are raising the first generation of kids that will be attached to a device almost every day of their lives from 3rd grade on. What is going to happen with the next generation? How will technology and the body be integrated in the future? Will the concept of Self change in the next few generations? (For the readers out there, check out M.T. Anderson’s intelligent & sensitive YA novel Feed.) I also have kids in this range and there is a healthy currency that exists when they are able to connect with their friends. Of course, there is the un-healthy type of currency, but I admire that my son and daughter can communicate & draw & share & bring light to others through digital text and social media. At the same time, I don’t want to glorify everything about these devices because I am truly interested in seeing how the next generation and the one after that consider Self, once self is connected via technology. Yes, face-to-face is best. But how will healthy parents raise healthy children with the changes that are-a-comin?

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Alli Polin February 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm

You have touched on so many of the questions that I struggle with and wonder about and have no way to predict the answer. Our children do have a different relationship with technology and it’s one that I’m not sure I understand quite yet. I think the best thing I can do is to ask questions of why and when and to embrace the learning.

Recently my kids logged onto their math program and did real time challenges with kids from the USA, Australia, Canada, NZ and Asia. What blows my mind is the status quo to them… it’s all they’ve ever known.

Look forward to helping my children grow into the people they’re meant to be both on and offline.

Will check out MT Anderson’s book. Thanks!

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Roue February 7, 2015 at 7:33 pm

I am so guilty of this. I cannot imagine a day without social media, but one day I forgot my phone at home and surprisingly, I did survive without losing my head!

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Alli Polin February 8, 2015 at 3:35 am

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Roue! I’ve left my home many times without my phone or a dead phone and at first, it stressed me out and now I see it as an opportunity to be more present (even if it wasn’t by choice). Glad to hear you survived too!

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Blair February 26, 2015 at 12:53 pm

Dear Alli,
I know I’m late to the party on this post. I was not responding to technology myself as I was immersed in the Bored and Brilliant project — A week of unhooking from technology! But finally I went through old emails and had a chance to read this post. I so appreciate how you encourage us to be mindful of our use of technology in leadership. Your kids are lucky that you are taking the hard line and being a firm role model for them. Being connected via technology is one way we can move forward in life and work, but being unplugged is another way we can move towards ourselves and one another.
Useful post, great perspective. As usual!

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