By Geremy Olson
When I was in grade school I had a friend whose family didn’t have a TV because “there was too much garbage on there.” Fast forward 35 years and you will hear the same statement about the internet, social media, news, etc. I had the same question then that I do now: is there any more garbage in technology than in regular life? The short answer is no. The real question is how do we consume information, and what do we teach others about how to use technology? Here are three principles that I live by and use to teach my kids about life and technology:
First is balance. Whatever you are doing in life, balance is a principle that will not only make things better, it will keep a lot of things from going wrong. When it comes to technology, people want to vilify it, worship it, and everything in-between. The reality is anything you do in excess is bad. A friend asked the other day how much time my wife and I let our kids play video games each week. Our answer shocked her: eight to 10 hours a month on average, and the kids choose when to play. Because they were raised to understand the importance of balance, they choose to play outside, hang out with friends, and participate in other activities. As parents, we understand that the skills our kids will need in their careers will most likely require technology that has a direct correlation to the video games they are playing today and the relationship skills they are learning while hanging out with people. It’s not about choosing; it’s about balancing.
Put others first
Putting others first is a principle that seems to get lost today. Part of the problem is the lack of balance in life and technology. This doesn’t mean we should get rid of technology; it means putting others first. Think of how much better Facebook would be if everyone thought about what the other person is going through and the context of their life before typing a comment. How about stopping by for a cup of coffee instead of sending a text message? One place this lack of balance is evident is in our cars. We rely on technology to find where we are going, keep us safe with air bags and seat belts, and even to help us stop. None of this technology is bad; however, a majority of accidents could be avoided if people drove in a way that put others first.
What is the wise thing to do?
This is a question that seems simple, but will drastically change your use of technology. I recently needed a new computer for work travel, and as you know, there are more than a few options out there. Some co-workers and I looked at all the options we wanted and then we checked out all the wise options. I ended up buying a four-year-old, refurbished computer because it was the wise option. This wasn’t because of cost, it was all about connectivity in the field, lack of functional software options, and durability. To determine whether a choice is wise, you need to look at the needs and consequences. Is the decision filling a need or taking away from a need? Are the consequences positive or negative? When it comes to kids, ask, “Are they learning a positive lesson or learning a bad habit?”
Technology is not bad or good. It is a tool. How we use it is what can be bad or good. Technology saves lives in hospitals every day, helps us make new scientific discoveries, and can make learning easier wherever you are. We need to remember to make a conscious effort to make wise decisions, put others first, and live a life of balance. If we live our lives with technology using these principles, our lives—and the world—will be a better place.
Geremy Olson is an outdoorsman, a producer, firefighter, and public speaker. He lives in Washburn, North Dakota with his wife, Kirsten, and their four children. Learn more about his work at 241ink.org.