Perhaps you saw the article in yesterday's NYTimes announcing that "American teenagers are growing less likely to try or regularly use drugs, including alcohol." Furthermore, these patterns of declining use cut across populations--"boys and girls, public and private school, not driven by one particular demographic." As you might expect, to researchers, this is a surprising, unanticipated trend. Perhaps all those education and prevention campaigns are having their desired impact. No doubt. However, when researchers see surprising trends (trends that far exceed anticipated impact from educational efforts), they scan the cultural, behavioral landscape for possible explanations. There is one that stands out: phone use: "scientists say interactive media appears to play on similar impulses as drug experimentation, including sensation-seeking and desire for independence." One researcher describes the cell phone as "a portable dopamine pump." One could read this emerging data as an indication of the positive impact of technology.
That being said, I was struck by the tremendous turnout of parents in our community last Sunday night to see a documentary dealing with teens and screens. There is a sense that something is awry. As one school psychologist in the article put it in relation to his daughter; "I see her at this point and time as not being a person who is controlled in any way by smoking pot [but] her phone is something she sleeps with."
Lives centered by/on technological devices leave us feeling fragmented, depleted, distracted, and strangely disengaged with our immediate surroundings--even our own bodies. The key word in the previous sentence is "centered." Privileging engagements that combine physical, mental, spiritual effort have a way of de-centering technology by making it less compelling. What would it mean, practically, for you to privilege such engagements?
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