Full text of award-winning author Ben Halpert’s talk: Technology Addiction and What you Can do About It at TEDxSaintThomas event.
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Technology Addiction and What you Can do About It by Ben Halpert
Ben Halpert – Author
Right now, an unborn child is being socialized online — and being liked and commented on.
Right now, a child is being born online and being favorited and retweeted all with the appropriate hashtags. So it’s no wonder that 92% of two-year olds in the United States of America have an online record because parents have been socializing their children since conception.
Right now, an infant is getting their first laptop – that’s soft and squishy and makes noise and they’re snuggling with it.
Right now, an infant is getting their first iPhone and learning to tap and swipe all while drooling on it. 92% of two-year-olds play video games because that is what parents are putting in front of their precious children to keep them entertained and quiet.
Right now, an 18 month old is learning to walk while also learning to text and drive.
Right now, a toddler is getting their first laptop designed just for them – not soft and squishy anymore – made of plastic real keys, feedback makes noise. They love it for about a week and then they get bored.
Right now, a child is getting a tablet designed just for them and they love it for about two weeks and then they get bored because what they really want is what mom and dad have, and what mom and dad are always on.
Right now, a toddler is being potty-trained on a specially designed potty to hold their electronic device.
Right now, a toddler is learning where to put their device down, so that they can wipe while they’re learning to go to the bathroom.
Right now, a child is taking a nap or going to sleep with the comfort of their technology. One third of Pre-K aged children in the United States are on a full-featured tablet – not a toy but a full-featured tablet. In the United States you can buy a full-featured Android tablet for $50 or less.
Right now, a toddler is finishing up their favorite TV show, and at the end of the TV show they’re being asked to join more fun; continue the excitement online with their favorite characters.
Right now, a toddler is playing a game online with their favorite characters, and being encouraged to play more and more and more.
Right now, a toddler is being coaxed online by a toy that they received with their meal.
Right now, a toddler is exploring the virtual world with a toy that they receive for their birthday — because playing with it in your hands and using your own imagination is no longer enough to engage with toys.
Right now, a child is creating in a virtual world with friends they’ve met online. Four out of five kids surveyed can’t actually tell the difference between an adult pretending to be a child and an actual child – and these are their friends.
Right now, a child is on a play date but not actually playing or engaging with their friends. Children who are spending more and more time on technology are being shown to fall behind on their motor milestones.
Right now, a family is out to dinner at a restaurant. I took this picture. Sorry family. Not enjoying each other’s company but each staring into the screen of their choice completely ignoring the family members. And this is mom, dad and the children all doing the same thing while they continue to eat – they did it their entire meal.
Right now, a child is being exposed to their first hardcore pornographic video because one of their friends told them to type four letters in the search bar. The average age of first pornographic exposure online for a child is 11 years old and that number continues to decline.
Right now, a child is becoming addicted to porn, through no fault of their own, but how their brain is designed. Porn sites get more visitors than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter combined.
Right now, dopamine flooding is four times stronger in the adolescent brain than it is in an adult brain. This – originally designed for continuation of the species. And you don’t actually have to have sex to get your neurotransmitters firing – when you watch pornography, according to your brain you’re actually bonding with it.
Nearly 1 in 10, 12 to 13 year-olds already fear that they’re addicted to porn; why? Because they can’t stop thinking about it; they can’t stop thinking about searching for a new video, watching a new experience, or seeing something that they haven’t seen before. They’re looking for more and they’re looking for different and they can’t help it — it’s their brain.
Right now, a child is sexting with their first love because no one told this child that no matter what the marketing tells you in an app there is no such thing as a private picture or private video. 54% of college students admitted to sexting when they were minors. This is in stark contrast to the statistics we get today when we actually ask minors if they engage in sexting — that number is much lower. So which group is telling the truth?
Right now, a teenager is photoshopping their selfie because as a society we’re telling them they’re not good enough.
Right now, influencers encourage narcissism without knowing the breadth and depth of their impact on their audiences. Selfies account for one-third of all photos on social media for people between the ages of 18 and 24.
Right now, a child is looking for a signal because their parents bought them a tablet instead of a phone and they have needs that need to be met. Adolescents today would rather lose a pinkie than give up their phone.
Right now, 40,000 spectators are in an Olympic football arena watching a competitive eSports competition – because this is this generation’s football match. 97% of teens play video games; the other 3% didn’t understand the question.
Right now, a child is heading home because of a mandatory curfew in a country. In South Korea, Internet addiction is classified along with alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling as an addiction. Society now is sending a message to our children that technology is to be incorporated into every single aspect of their lives. About one quarter of teens admit that they are online almost constantly. And you see this wherever you go walking down the street, in a store, at a restaurant, at a mall — wherever you are you see this – not engaging with the people around them.
Right now, you can choose to intervene; you can choose to create healthy technology habits within your family.
Right now, you can choose to moderate screen time exposure for your child, help them understand and create adventures beyond the screen. Get them outside, get them running around, get them playing different activities or games inside the home, so that their brains and their bodies can develop to their full potential.
Right now, you can choose to start the technology conversation and never stop talking about it in your family. Keep those lines of communication open with your children, so that when they encounter something that they’ve never seen before and don’t understand what it is they come to you — because you’ve previously had that discussion and it’s part of your everyday life.
Right now, you can choose to have the sex talk earlier than you ever expected to have it before. Because you don’t want your child learning about (un)healthy sexual habits from hardcore pornography that they’re watching online and then making assumptions about it, or what they’re hearing about sex from their friends, or their friends’ siblings. You need to start that conversation.
Right now, you can choose to start to assess your child’s technology habits. Is it at a point where you can help your child step away from technology and experience other parts of life? Or, do you need to bring in a professional that can help your child with a potential addiction problem?
Right now, you can choose to explain to your child why they will never again bring a technology device to bed with them. When children bring the devices to bed, they do not sleep. They do not get the required hours of sleep for their minds to fully develop. Help your children be the best that they can be.
Right now, you can choose to never bring out your phone again at a meal. You will be modeling appropriate technology use and behavior in a social situation for your children, and you will help create bonds that are so important between family members.
Right now, you can choose to be present for your children and your children will be present for you.
Download This Transcript as PDF here: Ben Halpert_ Technology Addiction and What you Can do About It (Transcript)
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