The pervasive evolution of technology is undeniable in the contemporary world. Communication via SMS messages, visual images and online social networks are now the most predominant forms of relating. This is accompanied by digital forms of entertainment in the form of online games consoles and lifestyle and commercial apps. The average person will check their smart phone over 150 times a day and will spend an average of 6 hours a day on their device.
This is a ubiquitous influence and one which has changed the landscape of communication, work lives, family lives and our relationship with ourselves. Although there are undeniable benefits to these technological developments, namely speed, convenience and the creation of a global village; there may also be some drawbacks. The world of emotion is very different from the world of technology, where speed and expediency are not always good approaches. Sometimes our desire to get to the finish line can cause us to skip a few steps and when it comes to emotional development, this can be ill advised. These shortcuts can mean we can overlook the importance of face to face communication, reflection, family time and understanding.
“This is why the concept of the Present Box and Boxie are so important. Families and children need to have supports to help them structure their usage if they are to form healthier relationships with technology. Therefore we need to use all the tools we can to achieve this.”
A recent Family Togetherness Index that I was involved in found that our relationship with technology can limit the amount of time we get to spend with our family. This can average 3 hours per day and 21 hours per week. This is a significant amount of time and one which we need to be mindful to monitor. These findings hold up a mirror to our use of devices and ask us to examine how comfortable we are dedicating so much time to such activities. The design of online applications and games encourage us to get ‘lost in the moment’ and lose track of time, so often the degree of regret we have around spending so much time on an App is testament to the Apps successful design.
As a result of this dynamic, we are tasked with self-regulating our behaviour and our desire. This is a challenging task as self-regulation is a skill that takes a lifetime to develop and is a persistent struggle for most people. Therefore any aid that encourages or helps us to develop self-regulation skills need to be encouraged. This is why the concept of the Present Box and Boxie are so important. Families and children need to have supports to help them structure their usage if they are to form healthier relationships with technology. Therefore we need to use all the tools we can to achieve this.
Child & Adolescent Psychoanalyst and Associate Professor
Trinity College Dublin