Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable and Hooked and former lecturer at Stanford University, offers new insight into why teens get so “addicted” to technology. Nir suggests the problem might not be as insurmountable as we thought and has a method for how to become indistractable.
If you've enjoyed Talking to Teens, we'd love if you could leave us a five-star rating, and if you have time, a review!
Full show notes
It’s so frustrating when kids seem infinitely more invested in their Fortnite match than the stack of homework sitting on their desk, or intent on binging Emily in Paris when they should be practicing their violin! In our modern world, where technology surrounds us, it seems that we’re all prone to getting caught up in all the distractions offered by our devices. We know our kids are smart and capable–if only they grew up in a world with no social media or streaming sites...right?
Although it’s tempting, blaming our kids’ tendency towards distractions on technology isn’t going to get us anywhere. Even when we take their phones away and limit their access to facebook and Instagram, it seems that they still get distracted, still procrastinate, still don’t put in their full effort! There’s got to be a better way.
Today we’re talking to the brilliant Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life and Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Along with teaching business at Stanford University and prospering as an entrepreneur, Nir has written widely on how people become hooked by technology, highlighting what exactly it is keeps us coming back for more. In our interview, he talks specifically about how parents can help kids dodge the technological distractions they so often fall prey to.
In Nir’s eyes, the ability of young folks to free themselves from distraction is the key to a successful future. So how can we help kids get there? The answer is a lot more complicated than just simply limiting their technology use. It involves digging deeper into what’s triggering the technology use in the first place...
Understanding Internal Triggers
When we think of the word “distraction”, we tend to think of noises or sights around us that make it hard to concentrate. While these are certainly part of our inability to focus, Nir shines light on what he believes are the most potent forces of distraction: our anxiety, boredom, dread, and confusion. Nir defines these as “internal triggers”, differentiating them from”external triggers" like the beeping of a car alarm or TV playing the news in the background.
These internal triggers are too often left out of the conversation when discussing distraction! As parents, it can be tempting to blame our kids’ concentration issues on circumstance or believe that we’re simply helpless when it comes to rebuking the distractions of tech. In reality, the solution to the problem lies in dealing with whatever it is kids are struggling with internally.
This use of procrastination to deal with bigger internal problems is similar to drowning out emotional issues with drugs or alcohol, Nir says. It’s not alcohol that drives alcoholism, it’s the emotional conflict or inner turmoil of the alcoholic that causes their unhealthy behavior. The same goes for technology, he explains. We overuse and find distraction when we’re trying to avoid dealing with feelings we’d rather push away.
So if your kid is a procrastinator, don’t worry–it’s not a character flaw, Nir emphasizes. Teens just need to learn to process whatever negative emotion they might be feeling. If they can get to the bottom of what’s keeping them productivity, they can begin to tackle the task at hand. In the episode, Nir talks more about how you can help teens deal with these deeper issues, instead of just placing restrictions on their tech use and hoping things will get better.
Why Teens Go Online When They’re Unhappy Offline
You might be wonderi