Knowing when to pull switch on technology

Carl Honore addressed the parents and community at Wesley College on October 14.
Knowing when to pull switch on technology
Carl Honore addressed the parents and community at Wesley College on October 14.

WE live in an age where the world is fast. With deadlines and pressures always looming, the modern-day person is constantly multi-tasking, between checking emails, answering phone calls, tweeting, snapchatting, instagramming; the list goes on.

When award-winning author and speaker Carl Honore addressed a crowd of parents and community members at Wesley College this month, the reality of how damaging a fast-paced, screen-dependent lifestyle was became clearer.

Considering himself an unofficial spokesman for the revolutionary slow movement, Mr Honore said since he slowed his life down, ditched the constant screens and took time to “smell the proverbial roses,” his life had become richer and more colourful.

“Everywhere people are sick of racing through their lives; they want to savour the minutes instead of counting them,” he said.

“When we’re constantly connected we lose the joy of discovering things on our own. When travel involves firing off a stream of texts, tweets and audio-video footage, we never completely immerse ourselves in a new place.”

While Mr Honore’s informative speech at Wesley was wrapped up in clever and humorous anecdotes, he gave an eye-opening insight into how technology can negatively affect relationships and brain function.

In fact, the Canadian-born slow mover said the constant use of technology was parallel to the obesity epidemic.

“Just as we keep on eating even after our bodies have had enough food, we keep on texting, surfing and tweeting long after our minds are overloaded with information and stimulation,” he said.

“It can cause our IQ level to fall more than it would when smoking marijuana.

“No wonder the Blackberry has been dubbed the Crackberry.”

While he is a front-runner in The Slow Movement revolution, Mr Honore did not condone the abolition of technology from our lives completely, but said its value was dependent on how it was used.

“The challenge now is to find the discipline to deploy communication technology more judiciously,” he said.

“To switch on when it can bring us together and enrich our lives, but switch off when face-to-face communication or even silence is called for.”

Explore with your kids

CONSTANT smart phone, tablet and computer use by children may have a bad rap, but Macquarie Universtity academic Kate Highfield said the right use of technology would open doors for education.

Throughout her research as an academic at the university’s Institute of Early Childhood, Dr Highfield said she had come across a number of parents who were hesitant about the damaging effects of screen time.

“The reality is that the technology genie is out of the bottle, so rather than ignoring the technology and hoping it will disappear, we’re better off focusing on how to use it,” she said.

“My job is to say, yes there are concerns about technology but let’s find a balance and use it well, it can open up incredible opportunities for children.”

Research suggested the trick to ensuring positive effects from technology was to use it in a way that encouraged cognitive thought.

“The balance occurs when we don’t use the device as a babysitter.”

Parents should not expect their children to use technology in the right way if they haven’t explored it together first, Dr Highfield said.

“It takes away some of the angst of using technology if we just consider it another play space.”