I shared a LinkedIn post recently featuring Belinda Parmar, who has the brilliant job title of ‘Empathy In Residence’ at one of the world’s leading banks, Barclays in London, with the responsibility to measure and manage empathy levels in that institution.
However the article, reproduced from The Guardian newspaper, was about her experience in promoting technology as an enabler, especially amongst women, and then her and her son’s subsequent addiction to the technology she was advocating.
Most recently it details her ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ experience in establishing a campaign, ‘The Truth About Tech’, to publicise and counter what she sees is the drive of the technology giants, she calls them ‘digital dictators’, to feed our dopamine addiction and generate greater profits.
Whilst in part their behaviour is no different from that of companies in other sectors feeding our addictions, from prescription drugs, gambling and tobacco, to alcohol and even sugar, I do understand and commend her concern for the welfare of the next generation.
With the experience of her son and his friend, she feels that our children are most at risk and as the parent of two teenage boys with an almost unhealthy interest in 2K, the online basketball game, I can understand that and all that it could entail.
Belinda Parmar wants these digital dictators to be accountable and moderate their own behaviour by providing addiction ratings on video games and rethinking automatically playing video features.
Within the article there were two interesting cameos featuring Professor Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University and Richard Graham, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who runs the Tech Addiction Service at London’s private Nightingale hospital.
Griffiths is more measured about what he sees as the effects of technology addiction, observing “that it may be one of the reasons for the drop in youth crime over the past 25 years” and that “for someone to be genuinely addicted to technology, that technology has to be the single most important thing in their life – they do it to the neglect of everything else – and very few people fulfill that.”
Graham notes that, “we’re psychologically cyborgs now, whether we like it or not. We’re integrating these devices into our mental functioning, into our social and emotional lives”
However both these experts agree that abstinence is not the way forward: instead, we need to build what they call digital resilience, and learn to use technology in a measured, controlled way.
Richard Graham signed off with a four step plan to Building your Digital Resilience:
1 Be united as a family. Use the American Academy of Pediatrics family media plan but remember: “The whole family needs to buy into this.”
2 Plan activities outside the home. Go to the cinema, for example. “It’s a shared experience, and there’s a narrative to stoke the imagination.”
3 Vary your digital diet. “People get stuck in very simple diets of media consumption, using the same platforms, games and messaging apps. Using different platforms is important – it’s about moving between them and having a sense of ease of being able to do something, then stop and move on.”
4 Live healthily. Sleep enough, eat well, drink enough water and do some physical activity every day.
It’s an interesting debate already and will continue to be so. View Guardian article