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Buckle your seatbelt!

Generally, I'm pro-technology. Cars are a great way of getting around. Bread slicers make sandwiches so much easier. I'm really glad rubber sole shoes are the norm. I apprecaite the safety that a seatbelt provides in the car. You see, the first mass produced car, the Model T, was invented in 1908, but the 3 point seatbelt wasn't invented until 1959. It wasn't until the 60's that reglations began to madate their installation in cars. This technlogy was added to make us safer in another new tech (cars) that while presenting a tremendous step forward in speed of transportaiton also came with some dangerous side effects. In a lot of ways, our modern relationship to technology, now referring to social media, phones, and the internet, resembels that of the period of time where we all driving around in seatbeltless bench seats in our cars. It's new, it's fun, but it does present some danger.



In little over a decade we have gotten to a place where almost everyone has some form of smartphone, when prior to that the internet was only accessible via a much less portable and convienient computer. In reality, the internet itself is only a few decades old. This has opened up trememdous access to good, such as the proliferation of data and information, access to healthcare and education, and connection via long distance. However, we have all experienced the darker side of technology as well. For reasons beyond just the seedier elements of the internet, I believe we are recognizing that we need more protective technology analagous to the seatbelt when it comes to how we interact with the internet, especially for children.


Some things parents can do to proivde a seatlbelt for the internet simply comes down to behavioral adjustments on their own part. Model healthy amounts of screen usage for your children, and try to limit their own exposure. Consult with your pediatrician to identify what a healthy amount of screen time is considered for your child to be. Most phones have the ability to limit their use of certain apps, or to shut off data and wifi at certain times. Use these features! For young kids, just avoid using the phone as a babysitter or attention diverter at all. It's so easy to do, but that's part of the problem. The bright colors and moving images are like a drug for a very young mind. The more they get, the more they want, and the level of stimulus required to make them conent will only go up.


When setting boundaries around social media, a good rule of thumb is no social media before 16. Let your children's peer's brains develop more before you let them have access and influence throughout the day and night by messages in their pockets. It used to be you could leave your bully at school and not worry about, but now your bully can be always just a message away. Further, simply comparing your own monotony to everyone else's highlight reel will only breed depression and anxiety. Encourage your children to find non-digital means of entertainment to enrich their minds.


Further, you may want to look into phones that inherently are limited in their ability to provide access to the internet. Companies like Troomi, Bark, or Gabb provide cellphones and plans that allow much more parental control. You can get simpler apps, such as spotify, but limit apps that share information peer to peer. Some of these also allow you to gradually open up access as your children age and mature. I highly encourage looking into a phone plan like this for any child under 16.


Technlogy gives us a lot of opportunity and potential. My whole job is now done via telehealth, so I apprecaite its utility!



However there simply exists some risks obviously associated with it, beyond just dark elements on the web. Whatever you do, make sure you're buckling your child's seatbelt when it comes to internet usage, and maybe buckle your own too!




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