My guest this week is Georgie Powell, a former Google executive turned entrepreneur and now founder of Sentient Digital. Georgie is a recognized expert and speaker on Digital Wellbeing, committed to helping millions of people consciously connect with technology. Her company, Sentient Digital, is a Responsible Technology and Digital Wellbeing Consultancy that works with organizations to build strategies and products which have a positive impact on their teams and the world. Georgie works with researchers around the world to better understand the relationship between technology and humans. She has worked with start-ups building Digital Wellbeing and Responsible Technology products and is an ambassador to the leading parental control app, Qustodio.
In this episode, Georgie and I discuss how to cultivate digital wellbeing for children and adults. Georgie covers a range of useful tips for parents finding it difficult to manage their children’s digital use habits, as well as, struggles with their own personal tech habits. Georgie shares alarming research findings around children and adolescent’s use of technology and empowers parents to take action by setting attainable and appropriate boundaries and goals for the whole family’s wellbeing. To learn more about digital wellbeing and Georgie Powell click here.
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What is Digital Wellbeing?
- Using technology in a way that is conscious and enables us to thrive
Digital Wellbeing at Home
- Every child’s view is going to be different in how they process and view their digitally engaged experience
- When you give your child their first device you must be sure they are mature enough for the access you have given them. The world is at their fingertips with the possession of any smartphone or tablet
- Many parents are unaware of what is out there and what kids can actually access
- This causes some parents to make unsafe and unhealthy decisions for them based on their tech allowances
- Many parents feel overwhelmed in trying to keep up and do not feel technically literate enough to figure it all out
- Making sure to have an ongoing conversation with your children around tech usage and engagement
- Use parental controls in a healthy way and be sure to model the behavior you expect from them
- Have you taken steps to be aware of and check yourself on your tech use?
- Take time to engage with the technology they are in and see what it is like
Humans Need Friction
- Learning how to sit with uncertainty is essential to being human
- Things do not always come straight away. Uncertainty and friction is NORMAL
- We have to help our children to develop this resilience, especially since they are growing up in a world that serves fix-it-all solutions through a click of a button
Tech Tension in the Household
- Try to do an experiment together as a family, everyone makes the commitment to subscribe to screen-free times and places
- “Here is what I have observed and noticed, have you noticed differences in me? In yourself?”
- Sharing research with your teens and talk about the evidence
- Doing it alongside them and make changes for yourself – do not put all the restrictions or rules on your children
Where to learn more about Digital Wellbeing and Georgie Powell…
Episode Intro … 00:00:30
What is Digital Wellbeing? … 00:02:20
The Attention Economy … 00:06:30
Building Digital Wellbeing at Home … 00:13:10
Screen Fatigue … 00:25:40
Humans Need Friction … 00:27:20
Tech Tension In the Household … 00:29:30
Episode Wrap Up … 00:41:15
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Hi everyone, welcome to the show, I am Dr. Nicole, and on today’s show, we’re talking about digital wellness and how to help kids develop healthy device habits, both now when they’re kids as well as as they grow into adults. This is a really important topic in general for kids growing up in this 24/7 connected digital generation, but especially now during this pandemic period, when so much of kids’ time is spent online for school, for socializing, for leisure activities. And it can be really challenging for parents to know what limits to set, how to help kids find balance in their life, and honestly, even how to find balance for ourselves as parents in the midst of all of this. So to help us explore digital wellbeing and how to cultivate it in our families, I’ve invited Georgie Powell on the show today. Let me tell you a bit about her.
She is Founder of Sentient Digital, a Responsible Technology & Digital Wellbeing Consultancy, working with organizations to build strategies and products which have a positive impact on their teams and the world. She has worked with start-ups building Digital Wellbeing and Responsible Technology products, and is an ambassador to leading parental control app Qustodio. Georgie works with researchers around the world to better understand the relationship between technology and humans. A former Google executive turned entrepreneur, she is a recognized expert speaker on digital wellbeing, committed to helping millions of people consciously connect with technology. Georgie, it’s so great to have you on the show today.
Oh, it’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So let’s start out with talking about what digital wellbeing is, because this may be a new term to a lot of people, but I love this term, especially as it pertains to the world that we live in today. So what is digital wellbeing? How do you define that?
Yeah, it is a relatively new term, and I think it’s still being defined globally. But the way that I understand it is about using technology in a way that is conscious and that enables us to thrive. So basically getting the most from technology.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Because there are really good things about tech, and I think sometimes, the balance of that even gets lost in the discussion of screen time and kids, right? Where the focus is so on the dangers and the problems and what we need to be watching out for. But there really are a lot of positives that digital connection and devices bring, right?
Yeah, absolutely. And I think the past few months we’ve seen that more than ever. There has been some really interesting work in the great screen time debates, screens just won. But if it wasn’t for the tech we are all using, there is no way that our world would still be functioning in the way that it is. And I think we’ve also learned a lot about how to use technology better in that period as well to kind of keep real relationships and to kind of use it for educational purposes or entertainment purposes in a more productive way. But it has also highlighted, for lots of people too that if we use technology in a way that perhaps is unchecked or not conscious — and not necessarily on our terms. A lot of what I talk about is about using technology in an autonomous way, bringing autonomy back to the user, and control back to the user. I think a lot of us over the past few months have experienced that loss of control. Actually, that can lead to some negative implications as well. So it’s really about finding that right balance and understanding how you want your life to be and how technology is going to make your life better, how it is going to assist you in that.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Yeah, because the reality is that the world we live in is a digital world, and becoming more connected and focused on — more tech-driven all the time. When I talk with parents, some of them say “Ugh, this is so overwhelming and there is so much to be concerned about. Maybe I’m just not going to give my kids devices at all.” And that’s not the solution either, because that’s not preparing them for the world that we live in.
Yeah. It’s so true. One of the things I always talk about is that 10 years ago, if you look at the top 10 companies by evaluation globally, you’d be looking at clothes retailers, oil companies — and you look today and they’re all tech companies. And during COVID, the NASDAQ, the only index that’s actually recovered, everything else is still struggling. This part of our life is accelerating more than ever and these businesses are having more influence over our lives more than ever. You can’t step away from it. It’s just not realistic. So instead, we just have to find the best ways to navigate the technology that we put around us. Yeah.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
You said something interesting a moment ago. A moment ago, you said for us to become more autonomous in our use of this. I want to go back to that, because I think that’s important. You said we need to be more autonomous with our use of technology, and that we’ve recognized that in a lot of ways, especially in the last several months, tech can have more control over us than maybe we’d like, and we need to be conscious about that. And I think there’s a lot of mindless use of tech that goes on for kids and adults. I really believe that many people are not aware of how apps, how devices are intentionally created to take away some of that autonomy, right? To have some of that control. In your experiences being a former Google exec, I know you have sort of an inside look at that. Can you talk a bit about that? Because I think that’s important for parents to understand.
I think it is important for everyone to understand it, and teenagers too, because I think if you have a better understanding of how the product is built, it gives you the information to make more informed choices about how you want to engage with those products. One of my objectives is to try and educate more and more people about exactly this problem. To explain it, a lot of the products and services that we use appear to be free. So for instance, social media is free, news and a lot of entertainment platforms like YouTube, but actually, there is a value exchange. Because the more time that we spend engaged with those sites, the more money that those sites are able to make by then selling advertising back. Basically, we think that these products and services we are using are free, but actually there is a value exchange. And the reality is that the longer we spend, the more engaged we are on these sites, the more they’re able to monetize our eyeballs in exchange for advertising, and in some cases, subscription money, but generally for advertising money. This business model is called ‘The Attention Economy’. Many products and services are now ultimately fighting for our attention and they are very good at doing that. They have huge amounts of data on how we interact with their platforms, and they have clever tools and tricks that they use to keep us hooked. So, for instance, things like the endless scroll on social media. Things like the like button which kind of replaces our emotional needs around social justification. You never really know what you’re going to get, and autoplay on YouTube that’s always going to present you a video that’s going to really try and hook you in as much as possible. That’s just a selection of some of these tools that have been introduced. So we’re really not equal parties when we come to engage with these platforms. We are already kind of being manipulated and I think it’s really important that people understand that.
The other thing that isn’t actually talked about very much is from the moment that you get your device, your experience with that device is also already being shaped because it’s preloaded. There are a series of apps and services that are already there, and the devices are primarily built for consumption, rather than contribution. If you think about it, trying to fill in a form or edit a video or something on a phone is actually really difficult. But to sit there and to scroll is really, really easy. Consumption is lovely for us. It plays to the lazy nature of humankind. You’re a psychologist, so you know this even more, but there are also some interesting chemical reactions that happen in our brain when we go through the process of being hooked on a device. One thing that happens is this idea of engaging with uncertain content is very much like gambling. You can pull in, you’re not sure what you’re going to get and it releases a chemical into our brain called dopamine. And dopamine has this lovely numbing effect on how we feel about our lives. So you’re tired, you’re stressed, at the end of the day, there is actually something really comforting about scrolling. And before you know it, a lot of time has gone by. And that use of time might not have been the most positive thing to do with that time, but it also might make you feel negative in other ways because of the experience that you’ve had. There is actually a chemical response that’s happening here as well as something that’s just kind of quite physical that we do everyday. That’s going to keep it longer too, the habits that are really quite sticky.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Such an important thing for all of us to be aware of, and especially for parents who have kids who have a tendency to get really hooked on or stuck using these things. Many of them come into the clinic and they are like “I don’t know how to get this away from my child/I have a young adult child right now who is not moving forward in their life because they use this as a crutch. They’re spending so many hours a day on it.” And I think it’s exactly what you just said. It’s sort of that double edged sword of: Yes, it feels good in the moment and it is, it’s just as addictive as gambling as substance use — it’s that same chemical reaction. Feels good in the moment, it numbs us, it releases feel-good chemicals. However, on the flip side of that, then, it leaves us feeling not good. Even for kids, they’ll say “I don’t feel good about myself afterwards when I realize I’ve spent the whole day doing this when I should have been doing other things.” There is the mood crash, the anxiety increases, all of that that comes on the other side of excessive device use, right? So it’s this sort of, feels good in the moment but then doesn’t do good things for us on the other side.
Yes, exactly. And actually, at Qustodio, we just recently did some research with Kidscape, it’s a brilliant charity. We’ve talked to a lot of teenagers, and it was really interesting to hear how many of them — they may not admit this to their parents, but how many of them wanted to cut down on how much time they’re spending on that screen. They know it’s too much, but they just don’t know how. They don’t feel like they have the resources and tools to kind of make that change. And of course, the other part of it that’s really hard is that so much of their life is online. They don’t view it as distinct. They’re not two separate parts of their life. It is their life. Their social life lives and breathes on these platforms in many cases. It’s really about helping them to navigate the healthy balance between when to engage and what they’re really trying to get from that engagement, versus when it’s time to step away.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That’s a really important point that kids are aware of that. And I’ve had the same experience in my practice with kids admitting things or saying things to me that they don’t want to say to mom and dad, but that same thing of “I know I’m not getting enough sleep because my sleep is being interrupted by device use/I’m having a hard time pulling myself away from the scrolling when it’s time to go to bed. I know I’m not getting enough sleep, I know it’s impacting my ability to focus. I know having my phone with me at school is negatively impacting my learning and my ability to get good grades because I’m consumed with checking people’s snaps in between classes/checking during class to see what the messages are.” So they know, and I’m glad that you raised that, which brings us to the piece of parent responsibility in this, right? Children can not be expected — we can’t just give them a device and say, “Well, good luck! I hope you figure it out!” We need to be actively involved in teaching and guiding this. So let’s get into that because you’ve talked about what digital wellbeing is and we talked about why that’s important. So let’s go to what parents can be doing, what families can be doing to support healthier digital habits, digital wellbeing at home.
I think, and I’m sure you talk about this with your clients all the time, but the first important thing is to recognize that it’s really individual. Blanket guidelines to all families are just not relevant. I think the research landscape reflects that really well. There are two different articles that have been published in Nature from very high profile academics, the first is that was published a few years ago, which basically said that screen time had the same impact on young people’s mental health as potatoes. And then there’s a more recent study that’s come out that’s said that actually, social media use has more of a negative impact on mental health for young girls than using heroin.
So if you’re looking for a spectrum, that’s really quite nicely summarized, I think. And it’s going to be the case with your children, just like it is with us as adults. For myself, I first got into this digital well-being space 5 or 6 years ago, when I realized my own habits with social media were making me feel rough about myself. They weren’t making me feel good, whereas my husband can sit and scroll Facebook for an hour a time and find it quite interesting and get some useful information from it and not feel the same kind of social degradation I felt from the experience.
The first thing is really to recognize that every child will be different, and the positives and the negatives that they’re going to get from interacting with these platforms will be different. However, there are some things I think are really important to do. The first thing is when you give your child their first device. So it starts right then. And from the research that we’ve done with Qustodio, it’s been interesting to see that a lot of parents feel they are giving their children their first device because of peer pressure. I think you have to be very conscious and really recognize that if that’s the reason why you’re giving your child their device and to be very clear of the consequences of what might happen if you give your child that device. Children’s first smartphones are getting younger and younger and I think it’s very common now for 9 and 10 year olds to be given their first device. So you need to be really clear on the reasons for why you’re giving a child their device. The second thing I think you also need to recognize is, it is full access to the whole world. You wouldn’t let your 9 or 10 year old get on a plane and fly around to the other side of the world and hang out with strangers that you never knew before, and you content that was 18+ and that you had no idea what they’re watching. It’s exactly the same. So I think it’s really important from day dot when you give your child their first device, whenever that is, to have a conversation with them about what is appropriate for their age or for their level of digital understanding and maturity, for the services that they can subsequently access at that age. And this is, I guess, why I’ve been supportive of products like Qustodio, because I feel like it’s a good way to allow children access to tech by limiting them. You don’t give them everything. You give them some stuff initially, and then as and when it’s right, you kind of start to open up more and more of the internet and give them access to more and more services. That might not be the right pitch for every parent, but I think being aware that if you do give them a smartphone, you’re giving them everything is really important.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I want to say something about that, because that’s huge and I can not tell you how many families come into our clinic whose children have devices, whether that’s smartphones, tablets, laptops, whatever it may be, and have absolutely no parental controls or limits set on those devices at all, even for younger kids. It’s astonishing to me. And I think it’s not because parents don’t care. Parents care deeply about their kids. I think it’s a complete lack of awareness. Part of that, I think, and I’m curious to know what you find with this in talking to parents: Part of it is, we’re the first generation of parents raising kids in this totally digital world. We, at least for me, my kids are teenagers and young adults now, I didn’t grow up with these devices. I didn’t have my first smart phone until I was well into adulthood. They didn’t exist. So I think many parents raising this generation of kids are truly ignorant, unaware of all that is out there that kids can get into. That lack of awareness, then, causes us to make decisions about access for our kids, that are not necessarily safe or healthy for them. I’m curious if you see the same thing.
Yeah, I definitely see that, and I think the other part of that is also, I think a lot of parents feel quite overwhelmed with trying to understand this new world, it moves very quickly and there are new apps that are coming up all the time. We look at TikTok for instance, it wasn’t around 18 months ago, and now it’s become almost as big as YouTube. I think that’s a big task for parents to make sure they’re keeping up. For some parents, it’s too difficult. They don’t feel technically literate enough to do that. The other thing I think that’s quite important to talk about, is tech has been really good at telling us the good story. And every product is designed to do something positive in our life. It’s a tool designed to be useful or entertaining or to connect us as societies, and they have these positive benefits. They also have huge PR teams that are really good at promoting the positive side of why we’re using these products. I think we are increasingly as a society getting weaker at critical thinking and actually taking the time to reflect on, well, okay, what’s the cost of this? Or that this might be good for me in the short term, but what is it going to do to me in the long term? Or what is going to do to my society in the long term? So I think that’s a piece that’s also been missing.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
So it’s important to have these conversations with kids in an ongoing way. We want to be aware of when we’re giving them their first device, we want to have ongoing conversation using parental controls and limit setting, then as you’ve said, sort of navigating that over time. Because we shouldn’t still have the same control for content and things in place with a 17 year old that we had when they were 7. That needs to evolve.
Yeah, and I think looking at those tools, like a tool which is actually allowing access that increases over time, rather than being a parent that’s restricting. That’s very difficult to come in when you’ve got a 16 year-old, you say “Suddenly, I’m going to apply parental controls to your life.” That’s not going to effectively work. So I think, think about it early on. It is really important. And then yeah, have the conversation! I think the other thing as well is lots more parents need to use these products. You need to — before you form a judgement about why your child is so into Fortnight, play it with them and get a sense of what they’re really experiencing and why they think it’s so great! Because unless you’ve tried it, it’s very difficult to empathize with how difficult it is for them to perhaps take a break from it. So see if you can kind of make that — I think that’s a really important homework for all the parents that are trying to — And then, I think the same method that I sort of recommend to individuals and to adults, it goes for children as well and it’s a really nice method for the whole family, it’s just to take some time to observe how you’re interacting with the technology and get your children to do the same. “Hey, were you aware that you just spent 45 minutes on the sofa? What were you up to?” Kind of just taking some time to just observe, or even just catching yourself sitting around the dinner table and suddenly you’re the one on the phone, and that’s obviously sending quite a powerful mirroring message to your children. So you start to be really conscious and observing.
And then just taking some time as a family to reflect on how that makes you feel. Was that really your intention? Is it making you feel good? Is it making you feel more productive? Did you actually get the social engagement you wanted or the level of entertainment that you wanted? Because when we start to question our behavior, I think it becomes much easier to change it if what we see isn’t what we want, and then start to experiment. So maybe it’s a good opportunity as a family to put in place screen-free dinners. I know quite a lot of families who now are always keeping devices downstairs just to try and protect that really important sleep part of the day. But it’s something that the whole family subscribes to. They do it together because they have recognized that the way that they are using technology at the moment isn’t bringing them what they need in their life, and they have all collectively made that conscious decision to change. I think that’s how you’ll get the most effectiveness from this situation.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I think that’s really powerful and important, that entire family buying in, and that parental modeling piece, because as I say to parents all the time, kids are going to go by what they see us doing a lot more than what they hear us saying, right? I love that you raised the importance of the adults being aware of their device use. So often, the focus is on kids, and “Oh, you spent 90 minutes on YouTube” or whatever. It’s like, well, have you stopped to be aware of, over the course of the day, how often you are picking up or checking a device? How much time are you spending? Adults tend to be shocked when they actually monitor that. I tell them, “You can use the screen time features yourself too to become aware of that!” And they go, “Oh my gosh! I had no idea! I spent 12 hours on my phone!”, or whatever. Right! If you’re doing that, then that’s the model, whether you intend for it to be the model or not, that’s what your kids are seeing.
Yeah, exactly. And actually, it’s not only that, but I think there’s actually quite a lot that we can learn from our kids as well. For instance, if you are a mom that feels a lot of social anxiety and that pressure — I think parents have so much pressure to be great parents in this kind of social comparison and the competition between parents. A lot of that plays out on the internet. I think there are some teenagers that are actually quite resilient to that, and they know how to pick what’s authentic and what’s not. I know there’s this trend away from trying to airbrush your perfect life. I think COVID’s actually really helped with that, because maybe kids can help you navigate how you’re feeling about social media, because they’re a little bit tougher to it. I think the other thing that’s also been really in COVID, there are two other things I want to talk about, which I think taught us quite a lot. For me, understanding the rise of video and having a conversation like this is really interesting. So there are some researchers that have looked at how messaging actually really undermines the strength of relationships because we can curate exactly what we want to say, it’s quite narrow, it doesn’t have a depth to it, but as soon as you get in a video call, there’s a lot of uncertainty that can arise from that call. It’s like having a face to face interaction. And that vulnerability is really important for forming deep, complex relationships. And that’s been a really great thing to come out of COVID. I think the other thing is a lot of people have woken up to news fatigue, and are getting better too at spotting things like fake news. This is a good tip for the parents, as well. It might be that you don’t want to talk directly about screen time with your children, because that can be quite confrontational. But maybe you can have a conversations about fake news and how you talk about fake news as a family, and trying to get them to think critically about their engagement with the internet through something like that, because I think a lot of it is very topical right now, and a lot of us are more aware of it and it’s quite a nice way it. So yeah, we are learning a lot more through COVID.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I think one of the things that has been interesting that I’ve noticed, both with my own children, as well as kids and even adults here at the clinic, the nature of the last several months of being forced to be on screens and tech more, has actually caused us to back away from it. I have more kids saying, “Ugh, I just want to go outside and play!/I just want to see my friends/I want something else to do!” That screen fatigue, it’s like they’ve realized too, “Oh, 6 months ago, I would have thought it would be awesome to spend every waking moment in front of screens, and now I’m realizing that that’s not so exciting.”
Even for some of the gamers. I’ve had a young man in, he’s 17 and we worked a lot over the last several years on his screen addiction and backing away from that. And even for him, he said, “I would have thought it would be great to have endless periods of time. Actually, I’m bored with it now. I’ve done everything that I want to do on it. I’m just bored with it. I’m kind of done.” And I think that’s interesting. It’s like kids have reached the saturation point where now they’re going, “Ugh! I want other things to do!”
Yeah, it’s really interesting. And I think a lot of us noticed that. I realized quite early on, I was spending more time on the news than I normally like to. I was like, “Why am I doing this?” Then I realized, there’s endless information, but none of it had the answer to the questions that I had in my head, which was “When will this all be over?” You still can’t find that answer! You can search all you want but you can’t find the answer! Will we all be okay? What’s going to really happen to our economy? We don’t know. Again, that’s sort of the consciousness that needs to come. “What am I actually looking for? What is this going to give me? What do I really want to find from using this product?” The other thing I think is worth talking about as well, which isn’t talked about that much, but I think it’s very important for children and understanding the reality of life, it’s the way that technology products are getting quicker. The networks are getting quicker, the products are seamless. We still have this level of friction when using a device, but that’s increasingly going away. We’re becoming connected in our homes, in our cars, but friction is a really important part of being human. When we form relationships, they take time. They don’t always work out. We go out into the job, the workplace, you have to hustle. You can’t get things instantaneously. It isn’t just about a one-button world. That’s not how real life works. And yet so much of our children’s life is being played out in a totally frictionless environment, and that’s something that I worry about a bit, because I think being able to not have an instant response to something, to be able to stick with that uncertainty, to be able to grapple with unknowns, with messages you can’t curate, with experiences you can’t perfectly organize in your mind. It is a really important part of being human. So that is something else: Think about how you can challenge your children to recognize that things don’t come straight away, and there is huge uncertainty. I think that’s an important answer for how to find friction, basically.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
That is a great point, and I haven’t heard it spoken about in that way, but I think that’s so true. That friction, things not going exactly right or delays or things like that are necessary for kids to develop resilience, perseverance, ability to problem solve, and that carries out into all areas of their life. So I think that’s a really profound point, actually, that as devices get more sophisticated, as networks get fasters, as the barriers become fewer and fewer and things just happen instantaneously, we’re losing opportunities for kids to develop that inner resilience and the ability to think about those things. It’s a great point. Any other strategies? If we have some families listening who are saying “Well, this is all great. I have a kid who just spends almost 100% of their time, that I’m not forcing them to do something else, in front of devices. It’s a huge source of arguments and tension and issues.” Maybe the child has developed some mood problems, behavior problems, anxiety, whatever, as a result of this. What would you say to them as a starting point for thinking about digital wellness for their family?
So I think the first thing to recognize with any behavior change curve, you need to somehow find a way to get the person whose behavior you’re trying to change back to a point where they are willing to recognize they have a problem and they are willing to change, right? Because at the moment, you’ve really got a child who is more addicted to their device than they perhaps even realize or are certainly prepared to recognize. I think that the observation, the reflection is really important to try and wake them up to how they actually are spending their life and their time. You may have some other strategies for this, too, Nicole, but my primary strategy would be that you have to have the conversation first of all, and you have to basically ask them, point blank, “Is this really how you want to spend your life? Because your life is where you place your attention. And at the moment, your attention is on this device.” Their response will probably be, “Yes it is, of course it is.” and just to keep probing, why, why, why, and why. It may be with some children that have really developed quite ingrained habits, that you do need to have some cold turkey time and to say, “Okay, we are going to have an experiment.” You think it’s really making your life better, but actually, I think you should try reading for an hour before you go to bed, rather than being on your device. It might not be very comfortable for you for the first couple of weeks. But let’s try it for a month and let’s have a conversation at the end of that month about how that time made you feel and what really happened in that time.” You’ve got to get them to notice that there are other ways and there are other things to do. That would be my approach. I’ve only got young kids so, it’s all, right?
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
But I think that’s great, being in conversation, right? So often, a big part of this is that everything is all kept a secret. Parents will complain to their friends or a professional like me about it. But they’re not talking about it together as a family. So I think having those conversations, “I’m concerned, here is what I would like to see,” putting some experiments, which I think is a great way to frame it, especially for older kids, “We’re going to try an experiment.” And to your point, talking about “How is this making you feel? Here is what I am observing. Here is what I notice after you’ve been on devices or certain games or things. Let’s try some things.” Along with that, I think helping them see that you’re joining forces with them on this, of “I’m going to evaluate and look at changes for myself as well. This isn’t just about you. This idea of digital wellness for the family, I’m going to be looking at this too. Here is what I’ve noticed for myself. Have you noticed some things for me, after I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table working for 8 hours in front of my laptop.” Making it a shared discussion and being willing as a parent to examine that and make changes, I think it’s a good way to get that ball rolling too.
Yeah, and also, I think maybe sharing some of this research that is coming out. Like I just said it, this article in nature that says social media can actually be more harmful to girls than heroin. “That makes me worried. How are you feeling? How does it make you feel?” Kind of investigating the science that’s coming out with them! You know, “Oh, I just heard that a lot of these apps are designed to keep us hooked. Did you know that? Have you heard about the dopamine effect?” And giving them those insights that they can then use as well to make better informed choices. I compare it to, in the early days of social change around smoking, when a lot more people were given evidence about what it does to your physical body, the cost it actually has on your wallet on a weekly basis. We obviously had the social change as well, of pubs and clubs saying no smoking indoors, that you’ve got to go outside. But people had a lot more facts to arm themselves with the change that they wanted to make, if indeed they decided that that was the right decision for them. And that’s kind of where we’re trying to get to with digital wellbeing too. It’s just making sure people have the right information to make an informed choice about how they want to choose to interact with tech.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
Love it. Love it. So tell us. Where can people find more information about what you’re doing? Are there some resources that you have available or some resources that you recommend elsewhere for parents to look at?
Yeah, sure. So you can always contact me through my own website, which is sentientdigitalconsulting.com, and I also blog quite a lot about topics related to digital wellbeing, so there might be some interesting things there to find. And I mentioned that I work with Qustodio, which is a parental control app. So it might be worth having a look there. They also have quite a lot of information for parents. I also always recommend Common Sense Media. I think they do a really great job at helping parents understand a lot of this technology, what the apps are, how they work. And they also have a really great — I think they started before COVID, actually, a digital citizenship course for young people to think more critically about how they’re engaging with the internet, which is kind of a really useful resource as well. There are a few things to get you started.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
I believe it’s commonsensemedia.org?
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
We’ll make sure we get all those links in the show notes so that people can easily click on them, but Common Sense Media, that’s a great resource. And your website, you’ve got a lot of great blog posts and things sharing the research, sharing practical information. So great resources there. Georgie, I want to thank you so much for being here today and for sharing this information and really just having a great conversation. Thank you.
Thank you so much for having me!
Dr. Nicole Beurkens:
And thanks to all of you for listening, we will see you back here next time for our next episode of The Better Behavior Show.