Durable Human (2 book series)

Tag Archives: kids and technology

Durable is the New Resilient

To explain concept of a durable human being, image is of woman in business attire standing in front of a shadow of a superwoman

As the pandemic drags on, you need to be a durable human. Simply being resilient doesn’t cut it anymore. New findings point to why.  

White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci wants our response to the COVID vaccine to be as durable as possible.

Arizona Senator Krysten Sinema says only laws with bipartisan backing will be durable.  

On Joe Rogan’s podcast, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt spoke of how “parents and teachers should be helping kids develop their innate abilities to grow and learn.” He used “antifragile.”

Lebanese-American essayist Nassim Nicholas says he coined that term because “there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile.”

But, actually—there is.

Durable: The Word We are Searching For

Endure and durable share the Latin root durare, which means to last. Meriam-Webster defines durable as “staying strong and in good condition over a long period of time.”

Resilience is “the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.”

To be a durable human is not merely to bounce back from adversity, but to have the inner shock absorbers to withstand the constant bumps on the road of life. 

“When we think about being durable,” I told host Hillary Wilkinson on her Healthy Screen Habits podcast, “we have to think about what are we. What is our edge as a human being.”

That is, the powers we have as human beings that our “smart” devices don’t. Phones and sensors may be able to “see” and “hear” as they try to emulate our famous five senses. But it’s all the other senses that machines lack.

“They don’t have intuition. They don’t have compassion. They don’t have curiosity.” Those are only a few that I named for Hillary.

Our job is to keep our human senses durable and our human selves different.

If kids spend too much time caught up in others’ creations (video games and social media, especially), they can’t follow their own curiosity. They won’t come up with their own ideas. Eventually, humanity could become more like a herd of sheep. 

As I write in The Durable Human Manifesto,

“The danger is that when individuals are no longer diverse in outlook and action, they will contribute less as a group. With little to differentiate them or to offer society, humans could actually become irrelevant. At that point, it will be easier and cheaper to replace them with robots.”

Positives of the Pandemic

Parents used their human intuition to help their kids be more durable during the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics surveyed thousands of its members and learned that many families managed to create a loving, safe-feeling, and even hopeful home as the pandemic raged around them. Pediatricians dub that a “positive childhood experience.”

Other adults also played a big role in kids’ COVID-era lifestyle. According to the May 2021 report in the journal Pediatrics, “Children have felt the caring of grandparents, teachers, health providers, home visitors, and others who persistently connected by phone, text, and/or video chat.”

A PCE is the opposite of an ACE, or an “adverse childhood experience.” While an ACE damages a child’s mental or physical health, a PCE builds kids’ self-esteem and emotional durability.

Adversity pushes us to dig deep into our inner resources. As I write in The Manifesto

It’s often when we’re forced from the familiar that our durability will shine.  

The Pinch of Generosity

But even with so much human-to-human support both online and off, many kids have drifted into not-so-healthy digital habits that are interfering with their human assets.

Surveys show the way they used technology during the pandemic has damaged their social skills, confidence, attention spans, and vision.

Kids need their parents and other loving adults to help them get back on track. To do that, we need to fully see and hear them so we can help sort out their hurt and confusion. 

The term “continuous partial attention” means always having an eye (and most likely a hand) on your phone, even when you’re talking with someone face-to-face.

“It’s very damaging for children’s self esteem,” I said to Hillary. “It forces them away and, in fact, can force them into relying on their devices.” Instead of on you.

Admittedly, it’s hard not to always be In The Know. It can hurt to set aside your phone so you can give your child your full attention. But when you feel that pinch of generosity, know you’re laying another brick in the foundation of your child’s life success.

The Road to Durable

Book Cover How to Be a Durable HumanBook cover of How To Be a Durable Human Book cover of How To Be a Durable Human

How To Be a Durable Human is filled with easy, no-cost ways to create secure attachment with your child as you build their (and your) durability.  

You can also listen to the Healthy Screen Habits podcast.

Health Screen Habits Podcast photo Jenifer Joy Madden

About the author:

Jenifer Joy Madden is a certified digital wellness specialist, a Syracuse University broadcast and digital journalism adjunct professor, and founder of DurableHuman.com.

How and Why Home Can Supplement School

Four children take a break from school by playing together outdoors

First, 8-year-old Emma changed her name to “Kitty” in the midst of a Zoom session. Another time, she tried to make her classmates laugh by showing them her bare foot. Fiddling with a glue bottle while her teacher was talking was apparently the last straw.

“We just want it to be a successful year for everyone,” the teacher said in a phone call home. The words she spoke were soothing, but her tone said otherwise. “You could hear she was upset,” recalls Emma’s mom, who herself was assigned homework. The teacher told her to clear off Emma’s desk so there’d be no further distractions.

All that in the first week of school for a kid who used her small summer allowance to pay for a math game subscription.

~~~

Last spring’s rush to online learning was understandably rife with problems. “For most, remote teaching did not work well,” contends David McKinnon, Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University in a presentation by Children and Screens. “Kids gained little or nothing, or regressed.” This time, schools have had more time to prepare. Still, he says, “creating a good remote learning program is a very challenging task.”

Teachers will try their hardest to give students opportunities for higher-level reasoning and independent thought along with the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. What may be lost for kids are the intangibles, like being able to express their feelings, move around, and build life skills. Supplementing those at home will go a long way toward keeping kids’ spirits up and their love of learning alive.

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Don’t Freak Out About Screen Time, But Don’t Check Out Either

Child holds up reed basket he is weaving

Way back B.C. (Before Coronavirus), a chief complaint from kids about their parents went something like this: “All my mom cares about is her phone” or “My Dad doesn’t really talk to me.” For years, too many of us have been in a state of continuous partial attention. Even when someone was sobbing in front of us, we’d have one eye on our phones. But now, confined in the chaos, we have an opportunity: for a parenting Do Over.

First off, we need to know the difference between Us and Them—in mind and in body.

Our kids are worried and anxious, just as we are. But we’re the ones in charge—their Reassurers-in-Chief. They need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.

“Don’t wait for them to bring it up. Ask how they’re feeling,” advised Dr. Robin Gurwitch, psychiatry professor at Duke University School of Medicine, on a call with reporters about the virus and mental health. “That way, you can get a sense of their understanding, validate their feelings, and correct misperceptions.”

To ensure lots of reassuring face-to-face contact and hugs, we can take a tip from the helpful American Academy of Pediatrics Family Media Use Planner: establish zones in the household and times of day (at least at meals and bedtime) that are free from distractions such as personal technology—theirs and ours.

When reading Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won (NYT March 31, 2020) by reporter Nellie Bowles, we need to consider the source: an adult with a fully formed brain.

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Essential Ways to Live Better Together in the Time of Coronavirus

Two sisters have fun in a big cardboard box

This post is written with all due respect and the fervent hope for the ultimate wellbeing of all those directly fighting coronavirus. Those at home containing the threat must also summon strength from within.

This will require endurance and for us to be durable in body, mind, and our relationships.

Luckily, the intuition, generosity, humor and other human assets we possess shine brightly during difficult times. They’ll get us through—along with some good planning and design.  

To that end, here are some practical, empowering, mostly no-cost strategies so you, your children, or other members of your household can be durable, happier, and more hopeful managers of the day to day:

First, Reassure

Family members gather for a birthday celebration on Zoom

Before coronavirus, kids had complaints like “all my mom cares about is her phone” and “I can’t get my dad’s attention.” In these scary times, our loved ones need to know we’re there for them, no matter what.

  • When talking to a child—or anyone in the household—look in their eyes and listen closely to what they say. Your undivided attention helps them feel safe and secure.
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