The Technology Pyramid and You

Consider the technology pyramid when managing your screen time.

| March 2019


Several years back, when I first began consciously observing and digging into the research around how technology use might disrupt relational and personal depth and maturity, I became very depressed very quickly. The news didn’t seem good. To improve my outlook and mood, my kids encouraged a technology-free evening. We got out a box of old Life magazines in the hopes of thinking about simpler times. The ads claiming that powdered orange drink was more nutritious than orange juice, foods fried in vegetable oil were more healthful, and that is was never too early to start your babies on all manner of sugary drinks told the story of American’s tendency to latch on to trends affording convenience. Not a country of moderation, we Americans bought into false claims and repeatedly turned what could have been a fine side dish into the main course meal.

Ten to twenty years later, scientific research caught up with the public health crisis caused, at least in part, by the over consumption of convenience foods. Might a similar dynamic be at play with digital devices? It seems rational to wonder how our full-scale adaptation to technology-based education, entertainment, and communication might be creating a reality ripe for consequences in ten to twenty years that will be difficult, if not impossible, to curb.

To help Americans make healthier food choices and counteract the widespread epidemic of obesity and other health concerns related to convenience foods, the United States government created the food pyramid. While this tool hasn’t solved all of our problems, it has gone a long way in helping us consider what a healthy diet might look like. Similarly, I suggest that the first step of any plan to alter our technology engagement begin with a consideration of what I refer to as a “technology pyramid.”

Just like the older version of the food pyramid, the technology pyramid I suggest recommends a greater proportion of healthy engagement with platforms, devices, and apps that deliver technologies that have less potential to hurt or limit us—and less engagement with those that have greater potential to hurt or limit us.

When exploring the idea of a technology assessment using the technology pyramid or any other possible tool, I stress considering the quality of the devices, platforms, and apps being engaged. Ideally, more time should be spent in digital spaces that encourage connection to embodied people within one’s social and relational sphere or ones that are truly educational in nature. The educational sites, apps, and programs that are beneficial to spend more time in are those that best reinforce effort and allow mistakes to be a part of the learning and creation process, thus reinforcing a growth mindset.

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