The omnipresence of digital and smart phone technology has yielded youth whose relational skills are stunted, experts say, and it is time to ditch 'surveillance' gadgets like alexa and amazon echo.
At a lunchtime gathering at the American Enterprise Institute in Dupont Circle Friday author and AEI scholar Naomi Schaefer Riley facilitated a panel discussion on how to respond to technology's impact on the mental health on children, which she explores in her recent book., "Be the Parent, Please: Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat."
Social technology and relationship apps like Tinder are designed to lure young people and keep them ensnared into cyberspace and keep them from interacting with other people. The panelists called for regulation of media companies and Big Tech, and for community efforts bringing awareness to parents.
"Don't buy an echo or an alexa or have any of those things in your home. That's just a surveillance device that earns money for Big Tech," in response to a question from The Christian Post about how parents might stay ahead of the curve given how quickly digital technology develops, Christine Rosen, senior editor of The New Atlantis, said.
"Your children's voices are recorded on there, their behaviors. You'll forget it's on," she continued, explaining it is not always clear whether those devices are off or on.
"You don't need a smart refrigerator to remind you to get milk. Just keep a list."
Citing guidance from pediatricians, parents need have the conversations with their children, particularly boys, about scourges like pornography, which is now easily accessible, much earlier than they would ideally like, Riley said.
"Tell them it's all made up," she suggested, speaking to how parents might speak to older kids about Internet smut.
"It's acting. These people are being paid to do this. It looks real and it's meant to incite your lust but it's not actually how people behave. And if you behave like this in real life, it's not going to go well for you."
Christine Emba, an opinion columnist for the Washington Post concurred, noting that echo and alexa and "all of their friends and compatriots" should not be in your house.
"They're becoming so common that there are children whose first reported words now are 'alexa'" Emba said.
"That is happening. That is a thing. And it's weird and scary. And it's inappropriate. And yet it's there."
Emba added: "We use this technology, we use these devices to make our own lives easier, to be able to reach our kids. [But] we have to take a step back and make our lives harder on purpose."
The columnist shared a personal anecdote that "dumb phones" are making a comeback and are "almost a little bit hip." She has two friends who scrapped their smart phones and managed to acquire flip phones.
While it is annoying, because in order to meet them she has to call them since text messages between the old and new phones does not compute, it's ultimately a good thing because is forced to figure out where her friends are, she explained.