We live in an age of astonishing scientific and technological development that has given human beings an amazing number of ways to communicate. However, it could be argued that real communication is taking place less and less. Concurrently, we are facing an unprecedented explosion of knowledge, but it could be argued that we now know less than we ever have, because we are drowning in a sea of information.
Information overload, combined with a communication overload, means that we are increasingly unable to tell the difference between fact and fiction, and sometimes between right or wrong.
As Martin Luther King said so eloquently,
“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles but misguided men!”
What has this got to do with our children, you ask? Let me assure, it has a lot to do with our children.
Last April, David Russell Schilling explained the theory behind architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller’s “Knowledge Doubling Curve” in an article for Industry Tap:
Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”; he noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years. Today things are not as simple as different types of knowledge have different rates of growth. For example, nanotechnology knowledge is doubling every two years and clinical knowledge every 18 months. But on average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build out of the “internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.
Communication opportunities are exploding with ever increasing speed. In 1995, 16 million people were online: 0.3% of the world’s population. In 2005, one thousand million people were on the Internet: 15% of the world’s population. Now three billion people are online, which is over 40% of the world’s population. VPN Mentor says that the internet of connection communication devices will grow to 26 billion units in 2020, which will mean a 30 fold increase from 2010.
So if you think you feel like you are getting information and communication overload, you probably are.
But where does that leave you as a father, and what will this mean for your children and family?
For starters, you can’t run from it and put your head in the sand. You have to deal with this explosion of communication opportunities and information, or it will control you and even destroy your family if you allow it to. Let me give you four keys to guiding your family through the technology rapids.
First, you must establish in your own mind and heart that human face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication (together) must take precedence over other forms of communication and you must determine to go out of your way to protect normal human relationships in an inhuman world. TV, video games, computers and smartphones will only dominate you if you allow them to. Learn to say no.
Secondly, you must develop a family communication and screen-time policy in collusion with your wife. In some cases you will have to develop this policy in negotiation with your children if they are older. You need to set agreed boundaries and limit the effect of screen and mobile application in your family’s life so that you, your wife and your children can develop the art of being human together.
For example, you might limit screen time to one hour a night on week nights, with adjustments for weekends. For ten years our family chose to live without a TV, one of the best decisions we ever made. I don’t regret it. My children don’t regret it — neither will you.
In an article by Nick Bilton titled “Steve Jobs was a low tech parent“, Bilton explains how Steve Jobs once told him, “We limit how much technology our children use at home”. Nick finished off his article with an observation by Walter Isaacson, the author of Steve Jobs:
“Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at a big long table in their kitchen, discussing books, history and a variety of things. No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”
Thirdly, if you have technology, you must set up filtering and monitoring mechanisms. ISP filtering is the best way to knock out porn and inappropriate material. I have been using Webshield, Australia’s first content filtered Internet Service Provider for seven years now, and have found their service to be amazing and the best way to give peace of mind. Mobile applications present more of a challenge, but where there is a will there is a way.
Lastly, you are going to have to have some strong and frank conversations with your children about the many dangers found online, including but not limited to: porn, online predators, sexting and bullying, to name a few. If you don’t have the conversation with your children, someone else will, and probably in a way you won’t like. It is so important for you as a father to get in first.
The proliferation of screens and communication devices means that you as a father must first lead the way, and not become beholden to communication and information overload yourself.
The best way to lead is by example. This form of leadership is often the hardest, but then again, that is why you are reading this newsletter. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. That’s why you have to step up to the plate and learn when to say no. Your example is vital. Your children need you to lead the way, because their future is important.
Yours for navigating the communication overload,