Technology and Health: It’s a balancing act.

This past week our second debate focused on how technology affects our health. Does technology have a negative impact on our health? Are there ways that technology is helping us in our quest to be healthier? How does technology affect our mental and emotional health? There were a lot of questions that were asked and a lot of information that was shared. Both groups did a great job presenting their arguments and I’d like to offer my perspective on the issue. You’ll notice that some of my ideas echo others in our class.

I’ll start with some of the arguments that I believe more strongly about. I completely agree that we all spend too much time behind screens or with a device in our hand. This isn’t a problem that is only affecting our youth. Many adults are now spending more time on their phones/devices than they are sleeping.  If you compare the effects of sleepiness to the effects of a good nights sleep it is easy to see the importance of getting a good night sleep. Youth are also being affected by the lack of sleep caused by using technology, gaming, social media and text messaging.  Sleep deprivation can lead to a significant number of health concerns for children and it can also impact their grades in school. Here is a great video that explains how our screen time impacts the amount of sleep we are getting.

I strongly believe that we should be doing our best to prevent our kids (and ourselves) from using devices or watching tv before bed. I know that it seems way easier said than done especially if you are like me and have excuse after excuse for why you need to have your phone in your room…”What if there’s an emergency and someone needs to get ahold of me??”…probably my silliest excuse because my phone is always on silent in the evening anyways. “How will I know what time it is?” Here’s an idea…buy an alarm clock. “I like to watch Netflix before bed”, I don’t have a solution for this other than to get your Netflix fix at some other point in time. Craig Canapari suggests ways that we can help prevent sleep problems caused by using technology.  There are a lot of great suggestions but I think the important thing is to lead by example and start young. We need to set the expectations when our children are younger so that it creates a foundation for when they are in their teen years. I like to think that I’ll be able to prevent my kids from having their phones in their rooms at night, but I don’t know how that will go over when the time comes. I hope we can have an agreement in place so that they can get a good night sleep.

horizontal-162952_1280Childhood obesity is on the rise and I don’t know if we can blame technology completely, but I do believe that it is definitely contributing to it.  It is pretty obvious to see that sitting in front of a screen requires little physical activity. This limited activity isn’t only contributing to the obesity levels, but a variety of other physical health issues. Sure there are devices, systems, and apps that might encourage users to be physically active but we have to ask if these provide us with the same benefits of not using them? The devices and apps probably do a better job of encouraging us to workout or eat healthier, but the game systems like the Wii Fit don’t do the trick. Come to think of it, I don’t think the Wii is that popular anymore. I think it came in hot and then died out because if someone wants to play a video game, they want to sit smart-watch-889639_1280and play. They don’t want to have to move or work to play the game. I also think that running on the spot or bowling using a remote doesn’t provide you with the same experience. You are missing out on the environment that we experience those activities in. Holding the weight of the ball, or running outside stimulates different muscles and I would argue requires much more work. Apps like Map My Run and My Fitness Pal  are great for monitoring progress, tracking and setting goals as are devices like FitBit or Apple Watch. However we have to wonder if the devices are making us healthier, or is it our choice to use them that is making us healthier? One study found that exercise levels typically increase for the first few months before returning to the former level when the novelty wears off.

medical-781422_1920On the plus side, I do think that technology has definitely helped us when it comes to improving modern medicine. It is incredible to think about the different ways that technology works to help diagnose, monitor and prevent different medical issues. Technology has come a long way and is continuing to make a difference by transforming health care.  Fellow classmate Bob knows first hand how wearable devices can help record and track important information to monitor a health condition. It is important to remember the role that technology has in our health care system and keep that in mind when we question whether or not technology is making us unhealthy or not.

My final thoughts stem from reading Erin’s latest blog. I definitely think that our health is highly dependent on the choices we make. This relates to more than just technology and our health. If we make poor choices when it comes to eating and exercising, chances are we will be unhealthy. When we use fitness devices or apps to track our activity, it’s not the device that is making us healthy, it is our choice to be healthy. The device certainly helps keep us motivated and accountable but we still need to make the choice to get up and go, or eat healthy in order for the device to do it’s work. We cannot simply download an app and expect it to make us healthy. We need to make that choice. We need to help our kids make healthy choices and I think the best way we can do that is to model healthy habits. If our kids see us on our phone or computer all the time, what do you think they will think is healthy? If we put our devices down and encourage our kids to do the same, we are modelling that positive behaviour that should result in healthy habits. Taking our kids to the park and sitting on our phones is not setting a good example. Take a few pictures sure, but we don’t need to constantly be snapping or recording everything that they do. Play with your kids. Eat healthy. Exercise. Limit your own screen time especially in the evening. Set a positive example for your kids and it’s more likely that they will follow in your footsteps. Just like so many other things in life, it’s all about balance and moderation.

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What do you think about technology and our health? How does it help us? Is it making us more healthy or unhealthy? Have you ever used an app or device to help you with your fitness goals? Did it work? I had one, and I was one of those people who didn’t last more than six months with mine 😦 But I realized I didn’t need an expensive device to help me stay active. It was all up to me. I had to make the choice to eat healthier and exercise, the device wasn’t doing it for me.

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My Detox from Technology

I have a lot of catching up to do for class. I wasn’t able to make it back to the hotel in time for class on Tuesday and I haven’t been reading blogs, checking Twitter or practicing my language and here’s why.

This past week I was on vacation with my family in Disney World. It was an extremely busy week filled with rides, characters, swimming, walking, and eating. If you have ever been to Disney World you know just how crazy it can be and if you have been with a 2.5 year old and an 8 month old you’ll know that travelling with kids is even more crazy. Our days went something like this:

6:00am wake up, leave the room by 7:00 to eat breakfast and be gone from the hotel by 8:00 to head to the parks.

9:00am walk through the park gates. Ride ride ride and walk walk walk stopping to eat and go to the bathroom when needed. Spend the whole day at the parks with kids napping in strollers and head back to the hotel upon park closing.

Somewhere between 8:30-10:30 arrive back at the hotel. Get kids ready for bed (if not already sleeping on the way home), lay out clothes for the morning, pack up the backpack (diapers, bottles, snacks, food) and get to bed to do it all over again the next day.

Repeat this process for 4 days! Yes it sounds crazy and I’m sure some of you probably think we are crazy for taking our kids who are that young to Disney World, but we love to travel to Disney. I could explain all the reasons why but that would require a whole other blog so I’ll save that for a rainy day.

Now to get back to the real purpose of this blog…my technology detox.

Because the week was so busy I had limited time to spend on my phone. I’m not so sure I can call it a detox because I did have my phone with me and I did go on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and take pictures while I was away. But I certainly did not use my phone to the extent that I do when I am at home. I would say that I probably decreased my usage by a good 95% while I was away. When I am at home, my phone is ALWAYS within reach. I sleep with my phone charging on my night stand and it’s the last thing I do before going to bed. I check my emails, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat before going to bed. When I close one app, I open another and keep checking back with them all until I am too tired to continue checking. If I don’t fall asleep within 5-10 minutes I am right back on my phone checking something. I have often felt that I may be addicted to my phone. And maybe I am??

I sometimes think it causes me to lose sleep because I am on it some nights well beyond the point where I am tired enough that I should be sleeping. When I wake up in the middle of the night I check what time it is on my phone but will check emails and social media sometimes for 15-20 minutes before I try get back to sleep. I think it’s a habit that I have gotten myself into. I saw a newscast before I left on vacation about FOMO – Fear of Missing Out– and I definitely agree that I suffer from that. I am constantly checking to see what people are doing and what I might be missing out on. It’s like I don’t want to be the last person to know who got engaged or announced their pregnancy. I wasn’t able to find the news clip I saw but while I was trying to find it I came across a quiz that you can take to see where your level of FOMO ranks. I took it and here are my results.

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Screenshot of Quiz Results from http://www.ratemyfomo.com

You can see that I am in the upper end of the curve. My ranking was high which wasn’t a big surprise to me. After the past week with limited cell phone use it made me realize that there really isn’t anything so important that I am missing out on. At the end of a long day I was tempted to sit and scroll through my newsfeed, but there was so much I had missed it was overwhelming and I decided to just head to bed. I had to tell myself that if there was big news I had missed I would hear about it soon enough. I didn’t have a nightstand on my side of the bed so my phone was plugged into the wall across the room. I didn’t fall asleep with it near me and didn’t spend time looking at it before bed. I didn’t spend time on it in the morning when I woke up either because we didn’t have time.

The limited use this past week was actually really refreshing. It was nice to recharge and nice to realize that I will survive without checking my phone every 15-20 minutes to see if I missed anything. I realized I don’t need to update pictures or posts on a daily basis to share what I have been up to because for the most part no one really cares that much about what I am doing anyways. I know that phones are amazing for connecting us and they make things very convenient as well, but they can also be a distraction. I am happy to say that I learned a lot about my technology use and will be making some changes moving forward. My first change is getting an alarm clock so I can charge my phone across the room from me where it won’t be a distraction when I wake up in the middle of the night. I want to continue to limit the amount of times my phone because a distraction and use it with for meaningful interactions or learning. For the most part keeping up and catching up with friends and family can wait. It’s the moments like these that won’t wait.

A family photo with Mickey Mouse

A family photo with Mickey Mouse

How do you feel about the amount of time you spend on your phone? Is it a distraction at times? What do you do to ensure you have a healthy balance between screen time and non-screen time? What were your results from the FOMO quiz?

Growing up digitally.

I find that every week I am enjoying the assigned readings more and more. The problem with enjoying them more and more is that I have a lot more to say about all of them but I have a hard time gathering and organizing all my thoughts into a logical post. This week there were a few readings that really grabbed my attention. This post focuses on only one of the readings.

One of the first readings I want to comment on is the survey that was done by Media Smarts. The classroom-based survey was completed in 2013 by 5,436 students in grade 4-11 across Canada. It focuses on the role of networked technology in students lives. After reading through the executive summary there were a few pieces of data that I found to be very interesting.

“First and foremost, these are highly connected children and teens, most of who are accustomed to online access through devices that are portable and personal. This is a big shift from 2005, where the majority of students accessed the Internet through desktop computers at home. Today’s youth have multiple platforms to choose from to go online.”

This is a very important piece of information that we need to keep in mind when we consider digital citizenship and digital literacy. Students are connected now more than ever before. With the majority of students having access to portable devices it makes everything available in an instant. Students are able to share updates, photos, videos at the touch of a button. The ability to do an online search for information is at their finger tips at almost any minute. We need to understand how this changes the use of technology and the impact it has on things (both positively and negatively). Students no longer have to wait until they get home to access the internet to share or find information. I believe this has led to an increase in instant satisfaction/gratification. I have had students ask me if I had updated their marks online and two minutes later they leave the classroom, open their phone and check their mark. I feel like we all struggle to be patient and wait for information. It is hard when we always have access.

There were two stats that I found really interesting regarding the grade 4 students surveyed:

  • 25% of students have a cell phone
  • one-fifth of these students sleep with their cell phone at night

    Photo Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: Vladimir Yaitskiy via Compfight cc

I personally think that grade 4 is WAY too young, but that’s just my opinion (I hope I don’t offend anyone who’s grade 4 does have a phone). My husband and I always discuss the age that we think is appropriate for a child to have a cell phone. We bothfeel that they should have one by the time they are in high school. Why do we feel this way? I think we feel that kids become a little more independent when they go off to high school. They usually have a further distance to travel to get to school, they can go out for lunch on their own and they are most likely a little more responsible than a 10-12 year old. That being said, there area lot of other factors to consider. The truth is there is no right or wrong age for your kid to have a phone. The right age is whatever you feel is right for you and your children. Check out these questions to ask before deciding whether your child is ready or not for a phone.

The thing I found interesting were the differences between boys and girls, especially when it came to online safety and parent involvement. I thought that it was really interesting that girls have more rules than boys in place at home when using the internet. My guess is that parents are more worried about who their daughters are meeting online as opposed to what they are doing online. Having both a son and a daughter, I feel like I would be more worried about my son accessing pornography than my daughter being lured by a predator although both are definite concerns of mine. I also found it interesting that a larger percentage of girls than boys feel they can be hurt by online strangers and see the internet as unsafe. Why do girls feel this way? Is it from stories they hear in the media? Are their parents using scare tactics in hopes to prevent them from being caught in a situation they wouldn’t want to be in? Or is it because women, like Monica Lewinsky, for example seem to get the brunt of social shaming in a lot of cases?

After reading the executive summary I looked into some other articles that give advice on how to manage technology use and limits that encourage positive use of technology. We know technology isn’t going anywhere, so we need to learn how to manage it and use it properly. Encouraging our children and students to use technology in positive ways is a great way to try and change the way we see technology. Students need to know how to unplug and what to do when they unplug. It is important that we teach them to know how to function with technology and without it. Among the reasons students use technology, creativity such as making videos and civic uses were among the lowest reasons. We can easily change this stat by encouraging them to use technology to create videos for projects and assignments at school. We can encourage them to stand up and have a voice with a positive message. By encouraging students to go beyond simply connecting with friends we can change the way they look at technology as well.

How does technology define you?

Before this past week, I had never heard the terms digital native or digital immigrant. Digital natives are described as those who were born after 1980 and have grown up with technology. Those who were born before 1980 are considered to be digital immigrants. I don’t know how much I agree with these terms and here’s why. Although those of us born after 1980 have grown up with technology it doesn’t mean we automatically know how to do everything involving technology. The technology has always been available for us to use, but it is not something that we use automatically without any qualms. It may be easier for us to figure out how to use an app or navigate the internet but it certainly isn’t innate. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone and we must still learn how to use the tools and devices that we have access too. The people who are labelled as digital immigrants are no different in this respect. Although they have had to adapt a little bit more than the “digital natives” both parties still require training in order to make use of technology. The learning curve for a digital native will almost always be quicker, but there is still a curve. My 80 year old grandma would be considered a digital immigrant and she navigates her way through Facebook, online banking, email and the internet just fine. Yes she had to be taught how to do all of those things and maybe doesn’t know as much as a so called digital native, but she doesn’t mind. She knows enough to be able to connect with her family that is provinces away and it makes her feel closer to them. Maybe she is a digital immigrant and has a digital accent as described in the PBS video. I don’t know how I feel about the terms digital native and digital immigrant. I can see it from both perspectives but can’t seem to decide which I agree with more.

I really enjoyed the IRL Fetish article by Nathan Jorgenson. It really made me think and I have to agree with a lot of points made. The bold font was taken directly from the article and I have given my thoughts after each statement.

Without a device, we are heads up, eyes to the sky, left to ponder and appreciate. This summer we took a road trip to Edmonton. We decided to give our two year old son the iPad so he could entertain himself and hopefully make the drive a little more manageable for us all. He watched one movie and then played some apps. Knowing he is big into trains and trucks we would tell him to look out the window at the trains or trucks that we passed on the highway. After a while we ended up taking the iPad away and he was the one pointing out the window at the trains and trucks. My husband and I said to each other that it was interesting to think about all he would have missed if he continued to be on the iPad the whole time. I guess if you’ve seen one train or truck you’ve seen them all, but the point is that it was nice to have him enjoy some of the ride rather than have his face down looking at the iPad the whole time.

Forgetting one’s phone causes a sort of existential crisis. I am guilty of this and can admit that when I forget my phone, my heart skips a beat and I have a brief panic attack. Last summer I was going out to Craven to watch a concert and left my phone at home. I immediately told my friend I needed to text my husband from her phone to let him know I left mine behind so that if he tried to text and I didn’t respond he wouldn’t worry. We also made sure that we didn’t leave each others side that night for fear of losing each other in the crowd. I had a great time that night but I had no pictures to capture Luke Bryan or any other acts that night. I felt lost without my phone and was wondering how I would survive. Of course I survived and I was actually surprised when I got home that I didn’t miss any phone calls and only had a few missed emails and texts. It made me realize that I didn’t miss much without my phone and probably enjoyed my night a little more in it’s absence.

Disconnection from the smartphone and social media isn’t really disconnection at all: The logic of social media follows us long after we log out. What is most crucial to our time spent logged on is what happened when logged off; it is the fuel that runs the engine of social media. When Turkle was walking Cape Cod, she breathed in the air, felt the breeze, and watched the waves with Facebook in mind. These were taken from different paragraphs throughout but they all relate to the same idea. Although we are offline, social media continues to be updated and we continue to think about social media. When we are offline it seems we are constantly thinking about what is happening online or what we will update when we get back online. So much of what we do offline is still heavily influenced by our online presence. We can’t wait to tell people what we did and who we were with.

We aren’t friends until we are Facebook friends. This also relates to Danah Boyd’s article Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications. If there were a Facebook spectrum, I think there are two different types of people on opposite ends of the spectrum. Those people who want to keep their friends list smaller including only “real friends” and family; and those who want to include anyone and everyone who they have ever crossed paths with. People can fall anywhere in between those two extremes. It is important to understand why people accept friends or request friendships. I know I have had experiences where I have only accepted someones friendship for fear of what might happen if I don’t. I have also deleted friends and wondered how that would impact other social relationships. I do believe that there is a big difference between the term friends and Facebook friends. I think your friends can also be Facebook friends, but I think a lot of people have Facebook friends that they wouldn’t consider true friends. This concept of friends vs Facebook friends is something I think is important to teach our students. Facebook shouldn’t be about having the most Facebook friends and biggest friends list just for the sake of having it. It shouldn’t be a popularity contest.

I do think that our digital self can be very different than our real life self. I think we base our self worth on how many likes we get and who comments on our pictures. We compare our life to our friends life through these digital platforms. Something we need to be careful of is the fact that the digital lives we see of our friends and family are not always the realistic life they live. How many selfies or pictures did they take before they got the one good enough to be uploaded onto Facebook? What filter are we seeing their life through on Facebook. We don’t always post the smiles and laughter. We sometimes complain or post negative things. Regardless of what we are posting we always think about who will see it and the reaction it will get. Will people like this picture? Will they judge me for posting this meme or political statement? It is easy to hide behind our digital self and pretend that life is perfect when in reality it can be far from it. This is something that is important to teach our children and even our students. Maybe I’m being to hard on us all…what do you think?