David Pogue Provides a Fascinating Vista

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on April 7, 2011


Bravo, David Pogue. Your story about your youngster’s interaction with the vacuum cleaner is fascinating.

Fascination is infectious.

So, as a child psychiatrist, I am fascinated by how fascinated you seem with your son’s fascination with the tech devices around him. I wonder, has he inherited your fascination with gadgets? Surely, he senses how he is fascinating you. Wow.

This reverberating joy, curiosity, and fascination of a human relationship carried over the broadest broadband ever that bridges father and son is exactly what our brains are about and what makes us human (and IMHO way more fascinating than robots).

And I do wonder how his life will be shaped by such machines and how he might be helped to become self-aware of this process so that he would understand and control it.

Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved

Schwimmer’s ‘Trust’ Reviewed: Technology / Media Violent to Kids — Parents Need Help!

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on March 24, 2011


(David Schwimmer and Andy Bellin’s important play Trust had a three months’ debut run at Chicago’s Looking Glass Theater a year ago, and is now resurfacing as a movie. My review of the play follows here.)

Trust is a moving portrayal of the life-changing consequences of an Internet romance between an innocent teenage girl and an adult male predator. Easy access and privacy in real time can be dangerous.

The truth of Trust and how close it is to all our lives and a threat to our loved ones are powerful. The audience seems to hold its breath as it watches the emotional trap laid methodically and carefully by the rapist, who lurks safely in the anonymity of cyberspace as he craftily manipulates a young girl’s budding sexuality. The piece exposes the deep and complex emotional traumas that spread like a concussion wave from the epicenter of the naïve teenager’s pain to her family members, friends, and caring criminal investigators, and portrays their difficult journeys towards coping and healing.

While the topics of cruel and criminal manipulation and rape of youngsters are timeless and compelling, what makes Trust especially relevant today is the role of technology. The audience sees the teen’s text-messages to her imagined lover as she sends and receives them. It is online and cell phone messaging and texting that enable the narrative’s tragedy – the evolving furtive relationship between the naïve child and her predator. Increased access and privacy in real time have real consequences.

The piece’s aim appears to be to bring this painful and real story to life to start a dialogue. After the play, the audience was treated to a discussion with local rape-assistant experts. The director stated that its intent is not to preach or provide solutions. But the well-delivered message is clear: Kids + technology = potential danger. I believe that this drama can be quite useful as a health-education tool that alerts media-soaked youngsters and their parents groping at the same time with powerful technologies, hormonal changes, and still-evolving but immature minds.

But it does not go far enough.

There are critical technology-related issues, central to the play and to our children’s lives, that go beyond the scope of Trust and must be considered if we are to save whole generations of children. These additional threats are not as obvious or sensational as those in the play, but their insidious danger to child development and family life can be more widespread.

The realities: Media are here to stay and will continue to evolve and bring new challenges. We have wonderful engineers and innovators, but they do not have the best interests of our children and families in mind. The basic needs of families have not changed significantly over the centuries, and the basics of child-rearing will not change much in the future, no matter what technology comes our way.

Much of technology can be wonderful and helpful, but if it is not planned, organized, and delivered correctly, it can be harmful. Commonly, however, parents complain that they have too few effective tools and strategies to manage children’s media lives, and too many parents are essentially abandoning their digital children to media that have become the central component of their environment.

The threats: Studies are showing that technology increasingly dominates kids’ time and attention to the detriment of family life and balanced development, while providing few clear benefits. Under-supervised children continue to stuff themselves with junk media as they do junk food. Limit setting and piecemeal ‘expert’ advice are only partially effective. Parents’ current practices — just put those wonderful magical technology devices into their kids’ hands, make a few rules, and walk away — are desperately insufficient. Teenagers keep finding new ways to assert their needs for autonomy, and they are not pretty. (see Tamar Lewin’s “Teenage Insults, Scrawled on Web, Not on Walls”, New York Times 5/5/10.)

The call to action: After over a decade of this laissez-faire approach and growing chaos, the time has come for parents to take a broad, systematic and serious look at the role of technology. Right now, parents are adapting family life to technology. The reverse has to happen, or we are in for a disaster as parents are excluded from larger and larger parts of kids’ lives.

Time is running out.

The solution: It is time to return to child-rearing basics and think of what kids and families need. Parents must change their own mindsets and behaviors and commit to an ongoing serious effort to take charge of the technologies in their homes.

Parents must now start early to actively fit balanced technology use into family life as they do healthy nutrition. Starting in early childhood, parents must begin to make media consumption part of normal family life and to raise kids who use media in balanced and healthy ways. It is time to systematically extract the good and exclude the bad, making technology positive and constructive for kids from the very beginnings of family life.

Parents need to be empowered, educated, and given tools by professionals and industry to manage the media lives of their children. Such an approach could prevent the type of catastrophe portrayed in Trust, as well as the longer-term and potentially more disastrous distortion of family life and development of our children that comes with the unsupervised and unorganized consumption of technology.

If we have the will, we can have better family lives and raise healthier kids who are savvy about the balanced uses of technology.

Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved

Q: Is the iPad Good for Kids’ Attention Span? A: Yes, But Only If Parents Manage It for Them.

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on December 18, 2011

Attention is that busy traffic cop pivoting and whistle-blowing in the midst of the streams of information spamming into our minds. These days, the overworked cop is slaving overtime and burning out. Too many of us — especially kids — are overwhelmed by too much information.

Experts and teachers alike are increasingly worried that the chaotic tsunami of information pouring through iPads, iPhones, iTouches, computers, TVs, androids, and other devices into our children’s minds may be overtaxing and damaging brain development, especially how kids learn to pay attention. Many believe we are just seeing the tip of an iceberg.

College professors are noticing that except for the brightest, most students these days have less ability to consistently focus their attention to attain their potential. In addition, the empathy and engagement with others that come with attentive listening and full presence is degraded by electronic distractions. And that goes for parents interacting with babies, too. I fear that such insidious damage, starting in early childhood, is irreversible and will cost us much in lost human potential.

Just to set the record straight: I am a doctor, parent, and pretty decent technophile. In fact, my latest invention is the world’s first curated browser system for kids. I love technology and believe it has great power to do good when fitted thoughtfully and in a balanced way to human needs. I advocate its proper, balanced, and age-appropriate use with children. I also believe in the awesome human brain and that it needs proper development. (And BTW, I don’t expect children themselves nor those adults already seduced by the technology to agree with my POV.)

Attention has long been recognized as an essential executive function that either by effort of will or automatically directs other mind/brain functions, like prioritizing inputs from our senses, turning on or off other processing of information and memory, and monitoring and orchestrating our behaviors. It is essential for accomplishing excellence in most human endeavors to focus intensely and consistently. Attention filters myriads of possible competing distractions, both external or internal, yet is flexible enough to instantaneously focus intensely on threat situations.

Developing disciplined attention skills and repelling distractions are life-long challenges. We are learning more and more about the brain mechanisms involved, and know that they are both genetically and environmentally determined starting with infancy. We know that our attention networks are mostly governed from the area just behind our foreheads and that they fluctuate dynamically normally with fatigue, hunger, and emotional states and extremes can be aspects of many psychiatric or neurocognitive conditions.

Parents: We know that our children cannot manage their attentional skills on their own in the face of massive assaults from over-abundant information and seductive entertainment. Yet too many children are left to do just that when, in fact, they can do no better than create healthy diets as they are bombarded with junk food distractions.

Please realize that although they do look focused while surfing, TV watching, or gaming, kids are not necessarily practicing and developing the attention skills they need because interacting with a digital device may not call for active attentional discipline nor perseverance as reading, imaginative and inventive playing, deeper conversations, spiritual connections, imagining, or creating. Nor are they efficient learners as multitaskers.

I strongly believe that it is time that parents become educated, empowered, and given the tools to provide their children with the right balance of benefits from media to assure sound development, especially of attention skills.

So parents — heads up. Pay attention to your child’s paying attention. Is it attention span or attention spam that your child is learning?

  • Make the act of paying attention a distinctive behavior to notice, monitor, discuss, learn, and teach.
  • Use parental controls on digital devices to limit time and access.
  • Choose apps and online content carefully — do not buy on impulse. Less is more.
  • Children vary in their auditory and visual attention among each other and over time. A young child’s attention span in minutes is roughly twice his age in years.
  • Limit over-stimulation by restricting the number of choices and blocking distractions online to accustom children to sharply focus attention and enjoy opportunities for the pleasure accompanying true mastery and learning.
  • As skills improve gradually with age and practice, increase the challenges of more focusing time and discipline to resist potential distractions.
  • Reinforce with specific praise and rewards persistence and discipline of paying attention.
  • Teach self awareness of media consumption — its duration and benefits/ disadvantages.
  • Teach recognition of information overload, potential distractions, and attentional drifting and strategies of stopping, taking a break, etc.
  • Play games to teach visual and auditory attention skills like taking turns closing eyes and asking “What color was that car?” or “What ad did you see that you avoided?” or “What did that radio announcer just say?”

An important bit of cautionary advice: Respect a child’s efforts as the best he can offer and adjust your expectations accordingly, unless you have overwhelming credible evidence to the contrary verified by an expert!

Dr. S is the inventor of the ZillyDilly iPad app system (http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/zillydilly-for-ipad/id492673037 ) that puts his philosophy into practice as a convenient tool, the world’s first curated browser for kids and media manager for parents. www.MyDigitalFamily.org presents Dr. Eitan Schwarz’s passion about aligning the wonders of technology with the needs of kids and families. Dr. S practices child and family psychiatry in Skokie, Illinois and is the author of the comprehensive Kids, Parents & Technology: A Guide for Young Families. Currently on the faculty of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Dr. Schwarz is a pioneer researcher in the use of digital media in therapy with children.

(c) copyright 2011 Eitan Schwarz


Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on March 20, 2011

The fourteen energetic dancers of Hubbard Street Chicago treated us to a mesmerizing interpretation of Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s new Too Beaucoup. Clad head to foot in flesh-colored body stockings and matching makeup, the anonymous, seemingly cloned, dancers were driven relentlessly by the persistent breathtaking soundtrack.

IMHO, what made this production essential viewing is its exploration of the increasingly busy, and at the same time, fuzzy interface between machine and man, human and robot. The timely dance masterpiece raises urgent points: How and where are human relationships with each other, with cloned creatures, and with intelligent machines evolving? By intelligent machines, I mean any digital circuit that monitors, inputs, processes, and outputs to us information-related stuff. I will focus on the robots and intelligent machines here because these devices have become essential accessories in our lives.

For example, you probably know one such disembodied robot, residing anonymously and totally formlessly somewhere that only the airline knows about, that says to you sincerely, “I don’t understand you,” like Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey, when you make a mistake entering your flight reservation. We don’t necessarily think much about this machine claiming an “I” for itself. Of course it is not human, but isn’t this boundary a little fuzzier now? I wonder if in the traditional 2nd Century A.D. myth the Golem claimed an “I” too?

How are our human and humane instincts going to serve us as our machines claim “I”s for themselves? Are they becoming our social partners? In these ways, we are making intelligent machines more and more in our own images. In other ways, as author Shirley Turtle cogently shows in so many ways in her Alone Together, our own humanity and the connections to each other that make us human are threatened by our chaotic use of interactive media. The problems are compounded for parents and kids and need differing solutions, as cover this topic more fully in my Kids, Parents & Technology .

But one thing was also obvious in Too Beaucoup: Never in the piece does any dancer touch another. And yet, they did seem somewhat connected to each other and to their groups. Alone together indeed.

That this piece was conceived and its crucial questions posed by artists thriving in Israel should not be surprising: Israel is the cradle for many of technology’s advances. The brilliant matinee Sunday, March 20, 2011, at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park, received a long standing ovation.

In seeing Too Beaucoup, at first I wondered about the question it asked me to ask myself: Am I watching humans act as humanoids? Humanoids as humans? Humans as humanoids meant to seem human?…It can get pretty confusing, but the production was entrancing and, frankly, I stopped caring. That’s powerful!

(While not a dance critic, I am a fan because, IMHO the human body’s potential for beauty and grace is expressed best in dance, and I am ever-grateful for the human spirit’s miracle of creativity, dedication, and hard work of the choreographers and dancers.)

Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved

Pew Report: Youth Texting and Media Use Explode, but Parent Limits Have Little Effect

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on April 24, 2014

Cell phones “have become indispensable tools in teen communication patterns. Text messaging explodes as teens embrace it as the centerpiece of their communication strategies with friends,” declares a current Pew Research Center study.

According to the Pew study, 1/3 of kids ages 12 to 17 send up to 3000 texts a month, and according to the recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 1/5 of this age group spend up to 132 hours of their week exposed to media. Both studies show that parental limits have little effect on how kids use the technology that continues to explode into their lives.

“These studies offer a fascinating look into the complicated ever-evolving interactions between youngsters, parents, and technology. Parents are still mostly reacting by setting limits, yet children remain essentially on their own.”

“The answer is not limits alone. Parents also need to get more involved and stay involved in positive and comprehensive ways with their media-soaked kids rather than merely imposing limits,” states child psychiatrist Dr. Eitan D. Schwarz, author of “Kids, Parents, and Technology: An Instruction Guide for Young Families.”

“Technology provides wonderful opportunities, but parents need guidance to systematically shape its best use in kids’ lives. I urge parents to embrace technology and make its balanced use part of family life from the early years, so that by the time kids become teenagers they will have the right perspective on it,” according to Dr. Schwarz.

Dr. Schwarz advises parents that using texting devices should be part of an overall family approach to media in the home:

• Take Charge – Have confidence and take charge. You can manage this important area of your kids’ lives. Many parents too readily take a back seat and let kids take the lead.

• The cell phone is a powerful appliance that must have positive benefits and limits to belong in children’s hands. Especially for younger pre-teens and teens, put a limit on the number of texting calls, block the Internet, and check the child’s phone regularly to verify who she is talking with and what she is saying.

• Create Healthy Media Rules – Tailor healthy media diets into daily menus for each child to provide development opportunities. For example, regularly require enough online time on apps and online that enhance good values and education enrichment. Apply rules to your own media use – be fully present with your kids, and do not text while parenting.

• Technology is healthy – From infancy onwards, teach kids to appreciate technology as a healthy and routine part of family life. Starting young, children will learn that using technology is collaborative and social — and not an isolating solitary activity. Always join preschoolers or younger kids using the tech toys.

• Include the Whole Family – Create a new environment around media to promote mutuality, fun, respect, and development for the entire family. It is large enough for kids and parents to interact around it.

• Make the Smartphone a Positive Learning Tool – Just as you already shop for healthy food, harvest the positive opportunities offered by its apps and online. For example, for every age group there are wonderful opportunities for learning.

• Create Healthy Media Plans – Tailor healthy media into daily menus for each child to provide development opportunities. For example, regularly require enough online time on apps and online that enhance good values and education enrichment.

• Apply Rules to your Own Media Use – be fully present with your kids, and do not text while parenting. Parents should be fully present with your children and avoid texting and cell phone use. Parents themselves may be damaging children when they are not fully present because they are online, on the cell phone, or texting. Not only are they rude or setting bad examples, but their distractions interrupt the vital bond necessary for healthy wiring of young children’s brains.

Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved

Advergames: McDonald’s Videogame Marketing to Kids Is a Tech Media Management Challenge to Parents

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on April 21,  2011


Matt Richtel of the New York Times just authored three fascinating related articles about kids’ advertising in the digital age.*

One describes McDonald’s Corp.’s efforts to engage kids in clandestine consumer transactions by having them play free video games. Unfortunately, busy caring parents may have to face yet another difficulty as they attempt to keep their kids’ media and food consumption healthy and safe. Parents can learn about the underlying current motives, thinking and changes in kiddie advertising from Richtel’s second urgently must-read story.

Richtel’s third story describes a very well-designed scholarly experiment on 4th graders in public schools, just published in the Journal of Advertising, to see how well kids would identify advergames as basically ads. That’s important to advertisers because if kids could know they are being pitched at, they could react realistically and appropriately and dismiss the intended sell.

But only teens’ brains are well enough prepared to make that calculation spontaneously. Younger kids just take it in. You see, younger kids will always believe in Santa Claus because they don’t know how not to yet.

It is exactly because of this: Merchandisers can use powerful cutting-edge psychological tools to target kids interacting with technology, and also for other very good reasons, that parents urgently need to be empowered and educated and given their own tech tools too to safeguard and manage kids’ media consumption.

As a veteran child psychiatrist, media / family expert and author of Kids Parents & Technology: A Guide for Young Families, I believe that parents too need a mindset and system of thinking to help them cope with the myriad boundary-blurring challenges that rapidly-evolving technology is forcing on us all. It is time to level the playing field. And parents do have a home-court advantage in shaping kids’ media consumption, not only in the here-and-now but also for the future, by accustoming kids to good media habits.

The author is a life-long technophile and student of how people interact with technology. Currently he is vetting hundreds of kiddie sites for a soon-to-be-launched iPad app that will be the world’s first media manager for parents and institutions. Dr. S intends to empower and educate parents and to put into their hands tools to customize for their kids healthy and safe Internet and other media experiences.

*1. http://community.nytimes.com/comments/bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/mcdonalds-makes-subtle-play-for-children-online/

*2. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/business/21marketing.html?_r=2

*3. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/children-fail-to-recognize-online-ads-study-says/?scp=10&sq=mcdonald&st=cse

Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved

Baby Twits to Change Own Diaper

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on May 20, 2013

A wet diaper detector to alarm mom or dad is soon coming to Twitter!

So odd, at first.

Then funny. “Can’t seem to remember to change your baby’s diapers? That’s what social media is for.” LOL. Great piece, Mr. Cooper.

But is it? Now for the not-so-funny part. (I usually hate to be a party-pooper or rain on someone’s parade.)

OK. Taking some of the guesswork out of caring for Baby seems like a great idea without a downside. Who needs anxious uncertainty and guesswork in parenting? The clever idea is so obvious and simple, it seems elegant: A cute device placed on diaper to sense humidity and twit mom on her phone that it is time to change Baby. Change Baby immediately and Baby avoids a rash and becomes comfortable at once. And parent is assured of doing the best for the baby. Nothing seems better: At first glance, a clear win-win.

Maybe — we don’t know. Consumer technology moves faster than we can research. It may make no difference at all, either way. Or let’s wonder, what can be some harm? Well, it really is just a version of the old “pad and bell” devices for enuresis of older kids, and their use is controversial.

My general POV: Let’s not tamper with infants unless we know what we are doing. So, I believe it important to raise these questions for parents and experts:

Is there some benefit to a parent not knowing, except from Baby’s own signal? Well, for starters, the parent can eventually learn to respond to different cries and builds confidence she knows her baby, binding their intimacy tighter, and increasing the parent’s sense of competence. Or Baby learns to signal distress and that the signal works, developing rudiments of a basic sense of competence in self-expression and trust. Or is there bonding value to mutual tension relief, a shared joy that comes repeatedly from solving an annoying problem together that varies in its annoyance and evokes a range of intensities of reactions in baby and parent?

And do we want to take out some of the intangibles that accrue when one person alerts the other and the other responds? Practicing the “social synapse”? The humanity, empathy, uncertainty, adventure, mystery, awe, discovery, challenge of growing a new life. Normal anxiety about Baby’s comfort. Baby knowing own sensation of warmth or cold wetness and other learning from being wet.

Our cave-dwelling ancestors probably did not have diapers or changed them, so biologically the cycle of wetting, waiting, alerting, etc. may not be crucial. But IMHO the interaction probably does enrich parenting and infancy and provides neurodevelopmentally rich and significant opportunities for human interaction and learning. During infancy are emerging attachment and frustration tolerance circuits in the brain that may be the underpinnings of brain networks for trust, rapport, confidence, and realistic expectations in baby.

So, maybe rather than responding right away, mother can wait a while after the alarm. The compromise seems reasonable, but it provides less intense experiences and would eliminate direct communication. Also, some parents could use this device initially and then learn the specific cry that accompanies being wet.

Telemonitoring bodily functions is a great medical tool. There may be specific instances for its parenting use, for instance for a severe rash or a situation where parent and infant do not communicate directly. So then there is the senses of smell and touch. That’s part of the adventure and intimacy for both parent and Baby.

So I do not recommend routine use of this device. Other questions arise: Would you want it in your own underwear? Do you want to reshape older kids’ – siblings’ – definition of privacy?

More generally, the inevitable introduction of this “convenience” is happening in a new space where kids’ development and technology intersect. The impact on our relationships, society, and public policy and privacy will emerge, no doubt, as opportunities to market in the crib will be explored by startups and commerce not interested in child development. Here’s another piece of evidence that we are getting closer to the time of Crib Robots.

Even more generally, some other easy uses of linking private body function sensors (that might be legitimate medically) with social media would be distant real time communication of sexual arousal (male and female, menses, blood levels of drugs and alcohol, gastric contents and other GI functions – stomach and rectal fullness, ovulation, hormones, bladder fullness and leakage, etc. etc. And then, once this enters into the massive cyberinfo stream, what about who and how this info is used.

Brazillian parents soon will be the first to market test this type of quandary – but only if they realize they are making it a parenting decision, and may pay dearly for what seems like the latest great convenience brought to us by technology.


Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved


Apple’s iPad iBook 2: Textbook Publishing, Students, Parents, Teachers, and Collaboration

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on April 9, 2014


Apple’s recent elephantine entry into the textbook world is another evolutionary step in technology’s reach into our lives. Let’s hope that like Apple’s other innovations, it aligns technology to the well-being of children and families.

Apple’s iBook 2 is the new elephant in the room for textbook publishing.

Many textbooks are already digitized at a basic level. There are general pluses to digital textbooks, including the saving of paper, interactive engageability, customizeabiliy to individual students and those with special gifts or needs, and the orthopedic relief to youngsters who now often schlepp 20 lb book bags.

But as a child-psychiatrist and technophile, I see vast potential benefits to a sensible coordinated system of digital textbooks. There are two overriding advantages to systematically and carefully integrating textbooks into the richness of the digital universe.

First, a broader collaboration of stakeholders: Textbooks, as do books in general, traditionally have created civilized communities of their readers across time and space. Now, on a day-to-day level, real time collaboration and sharing among librarians, teachers, students, parents, therapists, and primary sources could enlarge and enrich learning communities well-beyond the school walls, and do so not only through text, but also by audio and video. The modern classroom teacher, who personally knows the student and his or her learning and social experience, is the natural leader of such a student-centered community and must be given needed training, resources and support.

Secondly, the collaborative tradition could only be amplified by deep and broad well-managed accessibility to other resources through hyperlinking, also individualized, carefully edited, and filtered. Educational videogames can become integrated teaching tools, such as those of Houston’s Archimage’s Playnormous. Additionally, hyperlinked sources should include older texts, for example as digitized by Google ‘s visionary Book Library Project . Additionally, new worthwhile material related to the iBook 2 project must be well-annotated and organized and accessible to future generations, rather than disappear into the vast noise of cyberspace.

BTW, concerns about the distractions of other iPad content are not trivial. The device is engaging and magical. Teachers, parents, and software developers must bring technical solutions to maximize the benefits of media consumption while minimizing their power to distract (for example, Chicago’s MyDigitalFamily’s just introduced ZillyDilly for the iPad, which offers curated content while minimizing distraction.)

Finally, let’s remember that the basic skills necessary to integrate and deliver great educational content do not need reinventing. These are already developed and well-practiced by the talented and expert folks who bring us our current wonderful textbooks. Working with these folks is the visionary power of Apple’s iBook 2 project.

Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved

I Forgot My iPhone. What a relief!

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on March 19, 2011

The other day I had a sharp momentary panic when I realized I forgot my iPhone. I searched for it desperately. I called it. It was nowhere to be found. I felt naked, exposed, incomplete. I felt a hole in my world. I was suddenly in a silence — isolated and out of touch with what are surely crucial breaking news from my kids or patients.

The feeling is familiar – like when I forgot my wallet or keys — worry, tightness in the chest and a wave of hollowness in the pit of my stomach. That is what so many of us feel, as if, in the overall scheme of things, these devices are life-sustaining resources.

But wait a minute, unlike missing the wallet or keys, I suddenly feel a strange surge of relief. I can breathe easier now and feel lighter – a weight has been lifted. I am no longer tethered to a nagging persistent burden I had gotten so used to that I forgot was even there.

Hey, this is nice! I am not on call. I am free, like I used to feel as a kid walking out of school into my summer vacation. I will not be surprised or interrupted suddenly. I can take my time and enjoy the moment. I can stay connected in the present and hear myself thinking more clearly. I can relax with others and let go of all the noisy junk that my portable phone comes with.

There is an important lesson here.

Dr. Sherry Turkle in Alone Together offers a glimpse of how tech devices are insidiously permeating and probably damaging to our lives and making us less human than we can be. Studies are increasingly proving just how the consumption of media and communication with these devices are dumbing us down and degrading family life. In turn, my own book, Kids, Parents & Technology, provides a new way of thinking that empowers and educates parents and gives them the tools to manage their kids’ media lives for the overall health of family life and their development. Now FITGOALS® will be a hands-on application for parents and kids to enable parents to make for each child a healthy media plan.

One simple suggestion: Forget to carry your phone once in a while and enjoy the freedom. Carve out media-free times and places in your day, in your home, in your kids’ lives. Savor the freedom once in a while – the high heavens will not fall!

© copyright 2011 Eitan Schwarz


Dr. Sherry Turkle’s ‘Alone Together’ Brings Alarming News About Kids and Technology

Originally published by ThinkerMedia: BestThinking.com on January 15, 2011


I feel compelled to share my surprise at my eagerness to share these thoughts with an intelligent readership.

This is why: Against a backdrop of awesome discoveries of the wonders of the social brain and delicate ecologies of life, magical interactive technology is tethering almost everyone to everyone and itself with a chaotic, yet strangely compelling buzz. And we respond ourselves without fully knowing or much thinking. And we are changing it. And it is changing us. Like mechanical pigeons we carry our smartphones. The robots are already shaping us. Really. They are us and we are them a bit already!

And Dr. Turkle, a full professor at MIT, has been skillfully watching it happen with the discerning eye of a scientist, the lenses of a brilliant disciplined thinker and down to earth woman, and a heart of decency, the caring of a mom and compassionate healer. Now, as a captivating writer, she again shares her lifetime’s worth of observations, discoveries, and theories with us.

From what she describes so skillfully, it can be scary. Clearly, this is a malignant process that has emerged quietly and is sneaking up on us. Or is it?

We will react because it has to be taken seriously. But lets react intelligently. Let’s think about it for a while and define our own personal reaction.

Clearly there is no quick fix.

Article by Eitan ‘Dr. S®’ Schwarz, MD

©All rights reserved.