Balancing Bytes and Bites
Updated: May 28
In the heart of Sydney, a mother, and daughter sit down to enjoy breakfast together at the table next to me. It's Saturday morning.
The mother attempts to strike up a conversation, and her teenage daughter, around 14 years old, is intermittently engaging but predominantly engrossed in her smartphone. They mirror our shared struggle to navigate the online world mindfully.
There is no escaping the presence of devices. They've become deeply interwoven into our daily lives, creating a tug-of-war between the warmth of human connection and the allure of virtual interactions. This scenario isn't meant to vilify the Mother and Daughter, their devices, or social media. Instead, it highlights the need for mindful and balanced use. So using them as my inspiration, this is a positive piece on how can this mother-daughter pair better navigate their use mindfully.
The daughter's gaze anchored on her screen can certainly tweak her online behaviour. But she may need some help. Instead of mindlessly scrolling, she could take control and carefully curate her social media feeds. This means being selective with who she follows, and choosing profiles and platforms that inspire, motivate, and encourage positivity. This active social media feed curation shouldn't be a one-off act but an evolving process, aligning with her changing interests and needs.
Understanding why she reaches for her device can be a significant step forward. Maybe she's seeking solace from feeling alone or distracting herself from the awkwardness of a one-on-one breakfast directly across the table from her mother. As she grows, recognizing these motivations can help her discover healthier alternatives, ensuring her social media usage doesn't eclipse her real-world experiences or disturb her sleep.
Shifting to the mother's perspective, she can play an instrumental role in gently steering her daughter towards healthier digital habits. In this context, the daughter's phone isn't an obstacle but an avenue for conversation. I saw the daughter take a photo of her breakfast, probably for Snapchat. The mother could initiate a conversation, asking why she's sharing the photo and how it makes her feel. Is she seeking validation, likes from friends, or cataloging images for her dream of becoming a chef? This is not about restricting usage but promoting critical thinking about what she consumes and shares online.
The mother has the power to display healthy online behaviours. She can suggest they both put away their phones while enjoying breakfast together, setting a precedent for device-free meal times. Instead, she is now sitting at the table across from her teenage daughter, speaking to someone on the phone....so her daughter has gone back to scrolling.
By reinforcing that the next 30 minutes are purely for them and unlikely to be marred by emergencies, she could easily show her daughter that a fulfilling life extends beyond the phone. This kind of boundary setting, accompanied by specified device-free periods, not only models balanced behaviour but also benefits her own well-being.
It is crucial to remember that the power of social media and digital devices rests in our hands. Our online life experiences can be enriching rather than distracting when we use these tools intentionally and mindfully. The breakfast scenario can be transformed into an opportunity for the mother and daughter to foster deeper connections, both on and off their devices.
Envision a scenario where the mother requests her daughter to show her an inspiring post, igniting a conversation about shared interests. In this reimagination, they coexist with their devices, not passively consumed by them but actively using them as catalysts for connection and understanding. This mindful engagement could ripple beyond the breakfast table, converting passive social media consumption into active engagement across various aspects of their lives.