My daughter’s nickname for our tablet is “The Precious.” Like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, we are addicted to this object we carry around. We gaze at it and talk to it, falling for the illusion that it will make us more powerful. And like Tolkein’s One Ring, the more we use it, the more we get tied up in our own egos, neglecting other people and feeling worse about ourselves.
Luckily, we have a wise thirteen-year-old to tell us when we’ve gotten sucked in. We set limits for her screen time, but now she mostly regulates herself. She learned a lesson that we often forget for ourselves: that the world of friends and nature and books has so much more to offer than that enticing glowing screen. She hates watching other eighth-graders start up their phones as soon as they step outside the school door, like they’ve been craving it all day and can’t wait another second for their fix. When her friend grabbed the phone to check a notification while they were hanging out, she said “Hey! Your real-life friends are right here.”
My daughter gives me hope that we can get our use of technology back in balance. Whenever I pick up my phone or open my laptop, I’d like to ask myself: Is this device serving me? Or have I let it become the master?