Photo by Harry Knight on Unsplash

Get Off The Internet

“Card games, now that’s a good way to pass the time.”

An older woman observes my group of fifteen high school students huddled in circles playing games. We’ve just spent a week in the Dominican Republic and are enjoying a layover in the Miami airport before our final flight home.

Throughout the week, card games have been the go-to evening pastime. The kids teach each other new games, joke, and converse over the cards. That same spirit of joy passes here in the airport.

I overhear the woman observing my students and return to the email demanding attention on my phone.

The day we left for the Dominican Republic, Pew Research released a new study showing 95% of US teenagers own a smartphone. The same study reports 89% of teenagers are connected to the internet multiple times per day or more.

Teenagers get a bad rap.

Read any study and you’ll believe they’re over-connected and addicted to their phones. While often unreported, adults are just as connected as teens. The difference? Teenagers have a better grip on their boundaries.

In my work with students it’s clear they understand healthy digital boundaries. Adults, not so much. Did I mention I was the one playing on my phone while all the teens were engaged with each other?

Teenagers are “digital natives”. Ubiquitous connection is their first language. Adults are “digital immigrants”. Instead of naturally understanding technology and healthy boundaries, we’ve had to force ourselves to learn both. The technology we’re good with. The boundaries? Not so much.

The alternatives to healthy boundaries are burnout and broken relationships. These are not good alternatives. We need to learn when to use our phones and when to put them down.

In the fall, Apple is releasing a new iOS feature called Screen Time. This will analyze and record app usage and allow for limits. Tell your phone you only want to use Facebook for ten minutes a day and when you hit the limit, Apple will cut you off.

Sure, having our phones remind us to put them down seems silly, but if it helps us set healthier boundaries then I’m all for it.

Don’t want to use Screen Time? Follow Dexter Thomas on Twitter. He routinely tweets to “get off the internet”. It’s a good reminder to put the phone down.